Sinn Féin only party to oppose LPT increase for Waterford homeowners

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness was the only West Waterford political representative to vote against a 10% increase in the LPT. Sinn Féin had instead proposed a 10% reduction in LPT for Waterford homeowners. The vote took place at the October meeting of Waterford City and County Council held last week in City Hall. 

McGuinness said:

“Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Green Party, Labour and Independent members of Waterford City and County Council voted to maintain the 10% increase in the Local Property Tax that was introduced last year. 

“Sinn Féin proposed a decrease of 10% to give homeowners in Waterford a break. In all, the five Sinn Féin Councillors and one independent voted against the 10% increase and for my counter proposal to give families and workers a break. 

“The LPT is a tax on the family home – it is unfair, regressive and penalises people for owning their home. It heaps more expense on top of families that are balancing mortgage payments, with increasing energy prices, and the overall the cost of living crisis.

“Government needs to recognise and value local government – they need to stop neglecting local services. The first step is to provide adequate funding to Councils, funded by progressive taxation that ensures those best able to pay actually cough up their fair share.

“Our Council is perpetually starved of resources by Government. We are still many millions away from undoing the harsh cuts imposed almost a decade ago by the Fianna Fáil/Green and Fine Gael/Labour austerity governments. Services are suffering and are being allowed to continue to suffer. The establishment parties and independents would rather put their hands in working peoples pockets than address the tax breaks, loopholes and sweetheart deals that mean our public services are consistently underfunded.

“Sinn Féin in Government will get rid of the LPT and ensure that councils are funded sustainably from the exchequer to ensure delivery of public services at local level.”

ENDS

McGuinness: Sinn Féin announce motion to introduce urgent ban on energy disconnections

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has urged TDs to back his party’s motion in the Dáil tomorrow to ensure households are protected from electricity and gas disconnections this winter.

The motion would introduce a ban on energy disconnections now and provide crucial protections for people who use pay as you go meters.

Speaking today, Cllr. McGuinness said:

“Households across Waterford are facing massive electricity bills this winter. People have been hit by price hike after price hike over the last eighteen months and are worried sick about whether they can keep on top of these spiralling bills.

“The government’s refusal to reduce and cap electricity prices at pre crisis levels is a big mistake. It leaves hard pressed households here wide open to further hikes and to the possibility of disconnection. As families face a long winter, they worry that they won’t be able to afford to keep the lights on.

“The government’s plan to introduce a ban on disconnections from December until February falls far short of what is needed. People can’t wait until December. They need to be protected from disconnection now. 

“This week Sinn Féin will use its Dáil time to bring forward a motion to introduce a ban on energy disconnection now.

“Our motion would also give certainty to the many people who use pre-pay electricity meters. Once their €20 emergency credit runs out, pre-pay customers are disconnected by default. Yet, the government still has no real plan to protect these households. It isn’t good enough. Our motion would ensure pre-pay meter customers get the same protection from electricity and gas disconnections. 

“The government can and must do much more to protect people across Waterford City and County from spiralling energy costs. The cost of living crisis is unprecedented and people need certainty that their bills will be affordable.

“This is an unprecedented crisis. The government needs to ensure that all households are protected from disconnection. 

“The government must ensure there is a ban on disconnections for all customers now and until the end of March.

“Sinn Féin will stand up for ordinary workers and families to ensure that they are protected from the cost of living crisis. People in Waterford can’t keep waiting, they need help and certainty from the government now.”

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Samaritans

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Pieta

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Sinn Féin councillors seek talks with Mayor over treatment at September meeting

The Sinn Féin group on Waterford City and County Council have sought urgent talks with the Mayor of Waterford regarding their treatment at a recent meeting of the local authority. At one point Sinn Féin members withdrew from the chamber to protest being denied the opportunity to speak.

The leader of the Sinn Féin group Conor McGuinness said that his party colleagues were denied the opportunity to speak on certain debates, that they were interrupted when speaking, and prevented from raising issues that were then taken up by others. He also claimed that the meeting agenda was changed to push important issues back and allow an election take place earlier than planned so that a number of councillors could leave the meeting early.

McGuinness said:

“Sinn Féin councillors have a job to do as public representatives and our mandate is no less than anyone else’s. We will not accept a situation where we are denied an opportunity to speak in debates, to ask questions of officials, or to put forward proposals.

“Its quite clear that my party colleagues and I were singled out at the September meeting. We were ignored and overlooked when we indicated to speak, we were subject to frequent interruption from the Mayor, and in my own case, my questions to the director of services for housing and to the chief executive were allowed to go unanswered.

“The way in which the Management Report was pushed to the end of the agenda in order to have the election of deputy mayor take place earlier in the meeting had all the hallmarks of an old-fashioned political stroke.

“The Management Report allows councillors to highlight issues and to hold the senior management team to account. It’s arguably the most important item on the agenda, and each councillor is given just two minutes speaking time per month. This was moved to the end of the agenda to allow an election take place ahead of schedule so that two members of the majority pact could vote before heading off early for the afternoon.

“Councillors won’t always see eye to eye. Disagreement and debate are healthy. What isn’t healthy though is one individual or group dominating a meeting or seeking to silence those they disagree with. I have sought a meeting with the Mayor to raise our concerns and to work with him to find a way where we can all participate fully and fairly in meetings in the interests of our constituents.”

McGuinness slams Government refusal to extend affordable housing to Co. Waterford

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has hit out at the refusal of the Minister for Housing to extend his affordable housing scheme to Co. Waterford. He raised the issue at the September meeting of Waterford City and County Council.

McGuinness said:

“It seems the Government’s affordable housing scheme is at a stand still. I am concerned about slow progress in the two schemes announced for Waterford City, but what I can’t get my head around is the refusal from the Housing Minister to funding affordable housing projects in Co. Waterford.

“Dungarvan is crying out for affordable housing. I would argue that the need is more urgent and more pronounced in Dungarvan due to dysfunctionality in both the rental and housing sales markets locally.

“I am calling on the Minister to get real about the situation affecting town like Dungarvan and to allow Waterford City and County begin affordable schemes outside of the City so that we can be shovel-ready whenever he decides to make funding available.”

McGuinness launches survey on Skatepark issues

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has launched an online survey to gather feedback from the public and from users of the Dungarvan Skatepark and nearby amentities.

McGuinness said:

“I have been inundated with calls and messages over recent weeks about the Dungarvan Skatepark and issues of littering, improper or inappropriate use of the amenity, and occasional incidents of anti-social behaviour or bullying behaviour.

“I take these reports very seriously. I want to gather as much feedback as possible to get a well rounded and in depth understanding of the issues, the causes, and how best all agencies and users can respond.

“Please take a few moments to have your say. All responses are entirely anonymised and no personal details are sought as part of the survey. As always, I am available to discuss issues with individual constituents in total confidence by phone, email, messenger or in person.”

McGuinness to address Cost of Living Coaltion meeting in Waterford

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness is set to address a public meeting hosted by the Cost of Living Coalition Waterford. The meeting takes place at 7:45 on Thursday 1st September in the Tower Hotel.

The Cost of Living coalition has been established to campaign for measures to ease the burden of spiralling costs that are facing workers and families. Soaring rents, energy price hikes, back to school costs, increases in the prices of food and essential items, coupled with a deepening housing crisis and little in the way of wage increases – these issues need to be addressed urgently.

The coalition is comprised of Sinn Féin and several political parties of the left, trade unions, students organisations and advocacy groups working with those in need.

McGuinness will address the meeting along side People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy and SETU Student’s Union president Patrick Curtin.

The Cost of Living Coalition is supported by Access for All Ireland, Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Dublin Colleges Branch TUI, ESB Retired Staff Association, Housing and Homeless Coalition, Ireland Senior Citizens’ Parliament, Irish Congress of Trades Unions, People Before Profit, RTE Retired Staff Association, Right to Change, Sinn Féin, Socialist Party, SPARK, The Rural Ireland Organisation, UCD Students’ Union, Union of Students in Ireland, UNITE Dublin Area Activist Committee, UNITE Irish Life Branch, Thomas Pringle TD, Joan Collins TD, Catherine Connolly TD, Waterford Council of Trade Unions.

EU confirms Irish Government to blame for failure to fund Heilbhic dredging – McGuinness

The European Commission has confirmed that the decision to deny funding to dredge Cé Heilbhic rests solely with the Irish Government. The EU has provided Ireland with €920.4 million under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund – of which the Irish Government allocated €35 minion for fisheries ports and harbours. 

The European Commission further confirmed that its regulations for the BAR fund allow for ‘a flexible use of funds as needed for the specific situations of sectors and local communities’ by member states. 

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has consistently refused to provide funding to Waterford Council to carry out the preparatory work required by the Government before dredging can take place. This includes environmental assessments and the procurement of a foreshore licence, which can cost as much as the dredging operation itself. 

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor McGuinness had raised the issue with the European Commission directly in May this year, and had further engaged with the Commission on the matter throughout the summer.

The Co. Waterford Councillor is a member of the European Committee of the Regions and has been consistent in campaigning on fisheries issues at both local and national level. McGuinness has been working with David Cullinane to have the matter raised in the Dáil and with MEP Chris McManus in Brussels. 

McGuinness said:

“The European Commission has confirmed to me in writing that it has no issue with the Irish Government allocating money for preparatory and dredging work for Cé Heilbhic out of Ireland’s total allocation of €920.4 million. The Government had tried to blame Europe but the response I received from the Commission makes it clear that member-states have maximum flexibility when it comes to deciding how the money are used. 

“Earlier this year the Irish Government announced that €35 million of the BAR fund would be made available to improve and upgrade local authority owned piers and harbours. Despite Waterford City and County Council submitting an application for funding to begin the process of dredging Cé Heilbhic the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have refused to make the necessary funding available.

“This same Department requires local authorities to undertake expensive surveying and preparatory work before dredging can take place. This work can often cost as much if not more than the actual dredging. In devising the funding scheme it has decided that it won’t fund this key preparatory work, despite there being no requirement from Brussels to do so. Once again the Irish authorities are determined to be the best boys and girls in the class and to go over the top with regulations. This is particularly galling when the EU, which is providing the money, has called for ‘maximum flexibility’ in how it is allocated. 

“Cé Heilbhic is a working fisheries harbour supporting commercial operations. It is also home to the RNLI Helvick Head and Dungarvan Lifeboat. The harbour has become full of sand and silt over recent years and is in dire need of dredging. As things stand boats cannot enter or leave the harbour during low tides, and the situation is getting exponentially worse. 

“Boats returning to port with their catch often have to wait at sea until the tide rises enough to allow them enter the harbour. There are serious concerns about the lifeboat being unable to respond to an emergency call at low tide due to being stuck in the harbour. Will it take a tragedy at sea before the coalition parties get their act together? 

“Responsibility for this situation lies with the political leadership of the Department – Fianna Fáil Minister Charlie McConalogue and his Green Party and Fine Gael junior ministers. It is they who made up the regulations of the scheme and it is they that have the ability to amend them. Minister McConalogue and his colleagues are treating us as fools by trying to hide behind arbitrary rules that they themselves have the authority to make, break or change.

“It’s clear from the Commission’s response that it has made several attempts to engage directly with the Irish Government on this issue. There is a frustration in Brussels that what it calls ‘operational challenges’ remain almost a year after the fund was announced.

“I have written to Minister McConalogue to make him aware of the European Commission’s view on his Department using its own arbitrary rules to prevent European funding going to where it is needed. 

“It is not acceptable that the Government continues to preside over a situation where a fisheries harbour is becoming unusable while €35 million of EU money is available precisely to avoid this type of situation.

“It is beyond time for action on this issue.”

Text of question and Commission response here

Cost of not emptying Clonea bins needs to be considered – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that the Waterford Council needs to consider the cost of not emptying the bins at Clonea strand when deciding whether or not to use additional resources to keep the popular seaside area clean over the weekend. McGuinness has raised the issue previously at council meetings, where the cost of weekend collection has been offered as a reason for overflowing bins.

McGuinness said:

“Waterford Council needs to consider the cost of not emptying the litter bins at Clonea – the cost to the environment, the reputational cost to Waterford, and the impact on the enjoyment of our natural amenities by locals and visitors alike.

“I believe that people should take their litter home with them, and there is no excuse for leaving rubbish on the ground if a bin is overflowing – but the reality is that we need litter bins at our beaches and public amenities. We need them to be emptied regularly, and the situation of leaving bins full over the weekend has to end.

“The same is true of maintaining public toilets at our beaches and public spaces. There will be an additional cost to having staff attend over the weekend, but this needs to be measured against the cost of not doing it.

“Clonea is the jewel in West Waterford’s crown when it comes to natural amenities. It’s a shame to see bins overflowing on approach to the strand.

More needed to protect households from crippling energy costs – Cllr. McGuinness, Senator Boylan

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that proposals by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to protect households against the worst impact of runaway fuel costs do not go far enough.

He said a ban on disconnections needs to be introduced for all customers throughout the fuel allowance season, in line with provisions in Sinn Féin’s Prohibition of Winter Disconnections Bill.

Senator Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Climate Justice, called for utility companies to be forced to offer their cheapest tariff rate to all consumers.

Cllr McGuinness said:

“The massive increase in the cost of light and heat is putting huge financial pressure on families, and this is set to worsen throughout the winter.In addition to a windfall tax on energy companies and financial support for households, other protections like an expanded ban on disconnections is needed.

“The CRU announced additional protections last night, but these do not go far enough, considering the scale of the challenge people are now facing due to the massive rise in energy costs. A ban on disconnections for vulnerable customers will now run from October 1st until March 31st. We believe this needs to be in place for all customers this winter.

“Last year, Sinn Féin introduced the Prohibition of Winter Disconnections Bill to ban disconnections during the fuel allowance season every year. We recognise households who are struggling financially need support during this time, not the threat of having their light and heat cut off over the winter.

“Disconnections are a very real issue for many people. For example, in 2019, there were 5,008 domestic disconnections for electricity and 2,424 for gas.”

Senator Boylan said:

“We further believe energy companies should also be required to offer all customers their best tariff rate.

“Last night the CRU announced that all customers with a financial hardship meter will be placed on the cheapest tariff available from their supplier. While this is welcome, again, it doesn’t go far enough given the astronomical price of energy and the reality that every household will struggle with bills this winter.

“We believe utility companies should offer all customers their cheapest available tariff.

“Some customers are on much higher rates as they may not have changed supplier in some time. This is adding even more to their bills. People should not be punished for staying with one energy provider.”

Council needs to play greater role in managing new skatepark – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Waterford Council must play a greater role in managing the new amenities at Dungarvan’s linear park, including the Skatepark and ‘Learn to Cycle’ track.

McGuinness said:

“The Skatepark is a fantastic and popular amenity that has seen phenomenal use in the few months that it has been open. Huge credit must go to everyone involved in bringing it to fruition.

“Unfortunately during that time we have seen a huge increase in littering in the Linear Park area and immediately adjacent to the Skatepark. I raised this with council officials over the summer and managed to get a refuse bin installed, however there has been next to no improvement in the littering situation.

“At the same time I have received several calls and messages from parents about incidents of bad behaviour and bullying in and around the Skatepark.

“The majority of those using the Skatepark are respectful of the facility and respectful to other users, however there needs to be a level of supervision and management. The best way is for young people to have a sense of ownership and to be given a sense of responsibility.

“The council doesn’t have the monitor the park 24/7 nor should it have to, but I do feel a greater level of input is warranted. I would like to see young people involved in devising a set of rules for acceptable behaviour for the Skatepark, and for these rules to be displayed prominently.

“I have also asked the Environment section to work with youth services and schools locally to see how best young people can be facilitated in taking greater care of this wonderful facility.”

“Ultimately this comes down to responsibility and respect, and that has to be taught from a young age.”

McGuinness congratulates Tallow’s Ricky Kiely on European Bronze medal

Sinn Féin Councillor has congratulated Tallow boxer Ricky Kiely on taking a bronze medal in the European Schoolboys Boxing Championships in Turkey last week.

Kiely fought in the 80kg division and secured bronze against Moldova’s Illia Hornet after a tightly contested fight with the result coming down to a split decision. Kiely went on to challenge for silver in the semis but lost out to Vosyp-Vladyslav Kozakevych bosing for Ukraine.

McGuinness said:

“It was great to meet with Ricky on his return to Tallow and to be able to congratulate him in person on taking a bronze medal in the European Schoolboys Championship in Erzurum, Turkey.

“This is a huge result for him personally, I know he overcame a number of challenges towards the start of the tournament showing great resilience. He is a credit to his parents, coaches and his club. Keep an eye on Ricky, this young athlete is tipped for great success!”

Waterford at bottom of list when it comes to IDA visits – McGuinness

The leader of the Sinn Féin group on Waterford Council Conor D. McGuinness has hit out at what he calls an ‘embedded imbalance’ when it comes to IDA interventions. Figures provided by the South East Economic Monitor showed that Waterford received just eight site visits from the IDA in 2021, compared to 31 for Galway, 37 for Limerick, 44 for Cork and 153 for Dublin.

The mission of the IDA is to attract inward investment and to create jobs. Site visits are an essential and proven part of the IDA’s strategy to bring investment and jobs into a given area. 

McGuinness said:

“There is a staggering double standard at play when it comes to intervention by the IDA. Of the five cities in the state Waterford is clearly at the bottom of the list. Galway is second from the bottom but received almost four times as many site visits as Waterford in the same period. Limerick received over four times as many and Cork over five times as many visits during 2021.

“Site visits are important because they bring investors into an area to showcase merits of locations to companies considering investing or expanding existing operations. They are a proven method of attracting investment and jobs into a specific area.

“This trend isn’t new, in fact a review of the data over the last decade suggests that the imbalance has become firmly embedded in the IDA’s outlook. The indifference and neglect shown to Waterford City and County by successive Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments has created a culture where Waterford is seen as an afterthought when it comes to investment.

“When visits to Kilkenny, Wexford and Carlow are factored in,  the 2021 total for the entire South East region is still half the amount of visits received by Limerick last year.

“The South East is still the poor relation when it comes to securing investment and creating jobs. We need to see a change in attitude when it comes to Waterford and the South East. It’s clear that neither the political establishment parties nor their local representatives have the interest or the ability to deliver that change.”

ENDS

McGuinness: Minister must outline how additional TB testing will be financed – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called on the Minister for Agriculture to outline how he intends to finance the additional TB testing required of farmers.

McGuinness said

“The failure of the Minister or his officials to engage with farmer representatives on how the extra mandatory testing would be finances is not good enough. 

“More than anything farmers need certainty. Why can’t the Minister or his officials outline their plans to representatives via the TB forum? 

“Farmers have always been willing partners in the TB Eradication Programme and have played their part. The introduction of a new regime around testing in order to comply with EU regulations. In developing its approach the Department needs to outline its plans and engage with farmer representatives. Farmers are already under pressure from increased input costs, coupled with a pricing approach from buyers that leaves a lot to be desired. 

“The suspicion is that Minister McConalogue expects farmers to pay for the additional testing themselves, and this is why neither he nor his officials will engage on the issue. We need to see a return to dialogue on this issue and an open-minded approach taken by Government, that is understanding of the pressures farmers are under.”

People across Waterford urged to have their say on mental health services – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has urged people across Waterford to have their say on mental health services. He made the plea as Sinn Féin launches an online survey to examine the experiences of people accessing – or attempting to access – mental health services. McGuinness represents Waterford on the Regional Health forum and is an advocate for improved access to mental health supports for people across Waterford City and County. 

McGuinness said:

“We wants to hear the real-life experiences of people trying to access HSE and Community mental health services in this state.

“In many areas, due to chronic underfunding and neglect by government, our mental health services are creaking and under constant strain. This isn’t good enough and patients across the state are being forced to suffer the consequences of government failure.

“Sinn Féin is launching a survey of patients to determine their experiences of accessing, or attempting to access, mental health services.

“The survey aims to capture these details to tell the human story and human cost of underfunding and understaffing of our mental health services.

“Care delayed is care denied, and the longer the wait is the more difficult a condition can sometimes be to treat.

“Inadequate service provision can cause huge additional emotional pressure and stress for people already suffering with their mental health. This is unacceptable.

“Behind every number and statistic is a person waiting for care that they need.

“I am asking everyone affected to take part in this survey and make your voice heard. We will be using the results to inform my policy proposals.

“Sinn Féin will stand up for people attempting to access mental health services to ensure they get the help and treatment they need. The survey is available online on my social media or at surveymonkey.com/r/B5FGG6C”. 

Children in Waterford will be ‘left high and dry’ unless Government acts on school transport – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that scores of children from across Waterford will again be turned away from school transport this year due to a failure by the government to recognise demand and invest in extra capacity.

Sinn Féin has called 10,000 extra places to be funded and made available to help meet demand.

McGuinness said

“This week parents and families in Waterford are getting notified that they have failed to secure a seat for their child on the local school bus. They are being left high and dry by Government inaction. 

“Every year the School Transport Scheme is significantly over-subscribed and instead of harnessing this demand, the government sit on their hands and let the situation repeat itself, year after year. 

“This causes huge problems for parents who are trying to juggle their work commitments.

“In addition, we are turning thousands of children away from this public transport option, which is totally at odds with our climate ambitions, as it results in thousands of extra private car journeys to and from school each day.

“While the decision by Government to eliminate school transport fees for the 2022/2023 school year is welcome, it does nothing to address the capacity constraints. More needs to be done. 

“Sinn Féin have called for 10,000 extra seats to be added to the system, in addition to investing in new school buses and eliminating school transport fees. This would means hundreds of additional seats for Waterford to ensure that all children can access education. 

“By expanding this scheme, we can cut transport emissions, reduce dangerous traffic congestion outside schools, while providing parents and guardians with a convenient method of transport for their children.

“Expanding the School Transport Scheme is a win-win for parents and for the environment.“The Ministers for Transport and Education should now step in and immediately increase capacity to ensure as many children as possible can be accommodated.” 

Public urged to have their say regarding proposed Tallow pedestrian crossing – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed progress on a proposed new pedestrian crossing adjacent to the Health Centre and Library in Tallow. The West Waterford representative encourage the public to voice their opinion on the proposed works during the public consultation period.

McGuinness said:

“The proposed pedestrian crossing will provide a direct and safe connection to the Health Centre and the Library for those coming from the eastern side of Convent Road. The plans include traffic lights at the crossing as an additional safety measure.

“Public consultations allow for anyone concerned to express and opinion for or against, or to make suggestions for changes or additions to the proposed plan.

“The consultation period runs until September. Details of the proposal as well as how to make a submission can be found on the Council’s website, or I may be contact directly on 087 9345603, via conormcguinness.ie or through social media.

Urgent action needed to cut back-to-school costs – Conor McGuinness

Sinn Féin leader on Waterford City and County Council Conor McGuinness has called on the Government to take urgent action to help families across Waterford, who are struggling with back-to-school costs. He made the call following the recent publication of a survey by Barnardos that he said are ‘profoundly worrying’.

Cllr McGuinness said:

“The findings of the Barnardos survey about back-to-school costs are extremely worrying and expose the extent of the real crisis families across Waterford City and County are experiencing. It is clear that the Government must now listen and take action immediately. Families can’t wait.

“The survey found that over two thirds of primary (69%) and three-quarters of secondary school parents said they were worried about meeting costs this year.

“Last month, Sinn Féin published a package of measures to cut back-to-school costs. This set out how families can get much-needed support for these spiralling costs, as the price of uniforms, school books, lunches, voluntary contributions and transport can reach hundreds or even thousands of Euro.

“While the government took on board some of our proposals, they did not go far enough and this research by Barnardos shows that families need further help. The Government now need to take on board our other proposals and ensure that parents who are stressed about meeting back-to-school costs this year get the support that they need and deserve.

“Middle income families need help this summer. They can’t wait. People who have one child in school and who have a combined income of €620 or more per week don’t get any assistance in terms of Back To School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. Sinn Féin are proposing that this eligibility is widened to include middle income earners.

“These are people on modest incomes who are working hard and cannot afford to pay these spiralling back-to-school costs. It would be fair and reasonable for the eligibility to be widened to ensure these families get a break from the cost of living crisis. This would make a real difference to so many people.

“There is still time to act, but the Government cannot delay any longer. This issue is urgent. We are already in the middle of summer and these costs are coming in. Families cannot wait any longer.

“The Government has shown before that they can act, when they did agree to take on some of Sinn Féin’s proposals. I am urging them to deliver on all our measures. Our proposals are fair, reasonable and deliverable. They would make a real difference to families who are under major financial pressure.

“The Government must widen eligibility for the Back To School Clothing and Footwear Allowance now, so that middle income earners can receive much-needed help with back-to-school costs. Sinn Féin would extend the Back To School Clothing and Footwear Allowance to an additional 500,000 children. A Sinn Féin Government would stand up for families hit by the cost of living crisis.”

Government must immediately end any prospect of Mercosur trade deal – Conor McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that it is unacceptable that the EU-Mercosur trade deal remains an open prospect in light of the current challenges facing Ireland’s agrifood sector. He called on the government to immediately end any further progress of the agreement, which would allow for the importation of 100,000 additional tonnes of beef into the EU market.  

McGuinness represents Ireland on the European Committee of the Regions, which gives local and regional authorities a voice at EU level.

The West Waterford representative said:

“It is beyond ironic that, while in Ireland, there has been a sustained discussion on the role of agriculture in our domestic carbon emissions, the Brazilian meat industry was unveiling plans to increase the cattle herd there by 6.5million in order to meet projected export demand.  

“This increase represents the equivalent of this state’s entire beef and dairy herd.  

“Meanwhile, EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius has indicated that he expects the EU-Mercosur trade deal to advance by the end of this year, thereby facilitating the importation of a significant amount of that Brazilian beef into Europe.

“Irish farmers can and must take measures to reduce emissions. But we cannot expect those actions to be taken while the European Commission is preparing to sign off on a trade deal that will undo any positive impact of our domestic actions.  

“Due to pressure from farm organisations and Sinn Féin, government ministers have told the Dáil that they are now opposed to the EU-Mercosur trade deal. But, it appears that they have yet to tell the European Commission.  

“Ireland has a veto on this trade deal, and the government must inform the EU that we intend to use it and thereby end any further progress on this disastrous agreement.  

“Otherwise, government parties will lose all credibility on their recent Climate Action rhetoric.

“The Mercosur trade deal offers nothing positive for Ireland. It is bad for our most important indigenous sector, bad for our overall economy and disastrous for the environment.  

“It must be rejected, now.”

McGuiness welcomes public consultation on long-awaited Ballinroad footpath.

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed the opening of a public consultation on the proposed footpath connecting Ballinroad Cross with the Clonea Roundabout.

McGuinness said:

“This is a very positive step forward in the long-running campaign to get a footpath built along this busy stretch of road.

“Alongside local residents and other public representatives I have been calling for a footpath to be installed here since I was first elected. The need is very clear – connecting an important population centre with amenities, including the community hall, sports facilities, footpaths and the Greenway.

“The proposal includes 2 metre wide concrete footpaths on both sides of the L3011, leaving a 6 metre carriageway. It also included a new pedestrian crossing and improvements to the existing crossing on the Clonea Strand Road.

“It has taken a while to get to this stage but I believe the engagement from the public some weeks back regarding the proposed footpath for An Grianán served to concentrate minds – another good result for people power!  

“A draft design has been published and the public are encouraged to have a look and to voice their opinion during the consultation period, which runs until 20th September. For more information on the proposal and how to make a submission visit the Council’s website or contact me directly on 087 9345603, by email to conor.mcguinness@sinnfein.ie or through social media. Full drawings can be viewed here.

AIB u-turn welcome but customers need certainty – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed the announcement that AIB will not proceed with its decision to remove cash services from its Lismore, Tramore, Ardkeen and Carrick-on- Suir branches. The move was due affect a total of 70 branches across the state. The Sinn Féin council group leader warned that customers needed certainty that the U-turn is more than just a stay of execution and that cash services are here to stay.

McGuinness praised local communities for standing up for their services, and commended all those who signed petitions, organised protests and lobbied public representatives. The Sinn Féin group on Waterford City and County Council had tabled a motion calling for a reversal of the decision, and protests had been called by the party to take place over the weekend.

Cllr McGuinness said:

“I welcome that AIB have reversed their decision. This is the right thing to do. Their decision to make these branches cashless was short-sighted and poorly thought out. It would have caused major problems for customers and communities across Waterford by forcing them to travel long distances for basic services. It should never have been allowed to get this far.

“The suddenness of the initial announcement demonstrated a staggering level of arrogance and disrespect. While AIB cited increased digital usage as one reason for these changes, there are many vulnerable customers in our communities, especially living in rural areas, who are effectively abandoned when decisions like these are made. Accessing cash is a fairly basic service provided by any Bank and the loss of these services will impact on customers and businesses.

“People rightly saw the AIB decision as part of the wider running down of banking services in towns and communities righty across the state, and the trend away from accessible, offline ‘in-person’ services. Online banking is great for those who want to and are able to use it, but its not for everyone. Banks must not be allowed to ignore and disenfranchise huge swathes of the population.

“It is clear that the Future of Banking in Ireland Review is urgently required and must include close examination of local banking services, and the role of the Credit Union sector, to ensure that customers are not subjected to this unacceptable stress again.

Customers and communities across Waterford deserve to know that they will be treated fairly by their bank and that an appalling situation like this will not be allowed to happen in the future.

“The Government have evidently been caught on the hop and need to explain why this was the case. Customers need to know exactly how this debacle came about and need reassurance that it will not happen again. This means that the Finance Committee meeting on this matter must still go ahead, so that customers can get these vital answers and assurances from the Finance Minister and senior AIB figures. Sinn Féin are committed to standing up for customers to ensure that they are treated fairly and with respect.

“The Government are majority shareholders in AIB and need to assert their role in ensuring banks service communities. Our communities deserve to access services locally and to be treated fairly by these banks.

“I want to commend communities across Waterford who stood their ground and refused to allow corporate interests to hollow out the services upon which they rely. By working together and refusing to back down, they have ensured that these vital services do not leave. People power has won out.”

Minister sits on his hands as rental sector spirals further out of control.


The leader of the Sinn Féin group on Waterford Council has accused the Minsiter for Housing of ‘sitting on his hands’ while the situation in the private rental market continues to worsen. Cllr. Conor McGuinness said the recent Daft.ie report “is more bad news for renters” across Waterford City and County.

“Does the government have any idea how bad the housing catastrophe has become? There were 14 properties listed to rent for the whole of Waterford City and County. Of these only two are in the Dungarvan-Lismore District, and both of these far exceed the average rent for the county – yet this area is still not classed as a rent pressure zone!

“Added to this is the fact that the number of eviction notices issued so far this year is more than twice that issued in the same period last year,” he said.

“It is clear that Darragh O’Brien and the coalition Government have lost control of the housing market. Two years in office and almost a year into his housing plan and Darragh O’Brien is presiding over record highs in rents, house prices and homelessness. Meanwhile, social and affordable housing is well behind target and the private rental sector is shrinking. Smaller and accidental landlords are leaving in their droves, further shrinking availability. 

“The housing crisis has become a housing catastrophe.

“Budget 2023 is the Minister’s last chance to make the level of change required to fix our deepening housing crisis. We need a dramatic increase in funding to deliver 20,000 social and affordable homes every year for the next decade. We need emergency action to reduce homelessness and see need to see a review of the tax treatment for small-scale landlords in order to slow down the disorderly exit of landlords from the private rental sector.”

McGuinness accuses AIB of abandoning Waterford communities

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has accused AIB of abandoning communities and criticised the its decision this week to remove cash services from its Lismore, Tramore, Ardkeen and Carrick-on- Suir branches. The move will affect a total of 70 branches across the state. The Sinn Féin council group leader has drafted a motion calling on the Minister for Finance to take action,  which will come before the next meeting of the Dungarvan-Lismore District Council.

McGuinness said:

“The news broke this week that AIB will be making many of their banks cashless, including branches that serve customers and communities across Waterford. This is a terrible decision, which will mean communities in Waterford are left with no cash or ATM services and people will be forced to travel long distances to access banking services. 

“Due to this decision, people in across Waterford will have to travel significant distances  to access a branch with full cash services. This is an unacceptable and unfair burden to place on people. 

“While AIB cite increased digital usage as one reason for these changes, there are many vulnerable customers in our communities, especially living in rural areas, who are effectively abandoned when decisions like these are made. Accessing cash is a fairly basic service provided by any Bank and the loss of these services will impact on customers and businesses.  

“AIB has attempted to justify this decision to reduce banking services on the grounds of reduced use by consumers – but this pays little regard to the impact the pandemic had on consumers using face-to-face services. The Central Bank has noted the importance that cash continues to play in our economy and for social inclusion. Many people need to bank using cash for various reasons.

“AIB can’t walk away from our communities when we, the Irish people, bailed this bank out to the tune of €20.7 billion. It is now abandoning the very communities it claims to support.  Their actions are totally unacceptable particularly as the state owns 69% of this Bank.  

“The government’s reaction to this news so far has been simply to shrug. Where is the Minister for Finance?  Why is the government allowing AIB to treat its customers and communities with such distain? 

“It is time for the government to act and tell AIB that after a €20.7 billion state bailout it can’t walk away and abandon communities without banking services. This decision cannot be allowed to go ahead. Our communities deserve better.”

McGuinness extends condolences to family of late Cllr. James Tobin

The leader of the Sinn Féin group on Waterford City and Council has extended his condolences, and those of his party, to the family of the late Cllr. James Tobin who passed away recently. He also expressed his sympathies to Cllr. Tobin’s colleagues in the Fianna Fáil party, to his wide circle of friends and neighbours, and to the community that he loved and served all his live.

McGuinness said:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my fellow Dungarvan-Lismore representative Cllr. James Tobin. On behalf of the Sinn Féin group on Waterford City and County Council I want to offer our heartfelt condolences to his family. 

“James was a a community man through and through. He was a tireless, effective and approachable public representative. He was a dedicated GAA man. More than all of that though he was a family man – our conversations were as often about family as politics. It was clear how proud he was of his family, and how much he loved his children and his late wife Anne. 

“As a new Councillor James was very generous to me with his time, and despite being from different political parties we found common ground. We would invariably find something to agree on no matter the topic! 

“His passing is a huge loss to the community, to the council, to his party, and to his wide circle of friends – but most of all to his family, whom he loved and was so proud of. 

“I send my deepest sympathies to his children Mairéad, Micheál, Seán, Áine, Séamus and Pádraig, to their partners, to his grandchildren and his wider family circle. 

“Suaimhneas síoraí dó agus dá bhean Anne – i dteannta a chéile go raibh siad I bhFlaitheas Dé.”

McGuinness slams Government ‘neglect’ of Bonmahon amid water outage

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Bonmahon has been ‘neglected’ by Irish Waterford and by successive Governments that have failed to invest in infrastructure for the seaside village. He made the comments as many families and businesses in the area faced their third day without water against the backdrop of sweltering temperatures.

McGuinness said:

“We need to see urgent and adequate infrastructural investment in Bonmahon, in both the village’s water supply and in its sewage system.

“The lack of the capacity in the reservoir to meet increased summer demand for water has led to many houses in the area being left without water for three days during the hottest seek of the year. A number of local businesses have had to offer reduced services during what should be their busiest season.

“My colleague Cllr Jim Griffin and I have been engaging with Irish Water and with Waterford Council about the water outages over the last number of days. The situation is down to increased demand on a water supply that is not adequate for usage over the summer season.

“Its not right that families and businesses are left without water for multiple days during hot weather. We need to see investment in a fit-for-purpose water supply that can cater to summer demand for the village and its visitors.

“We also need to see urgent investment in a new sewage system for the village – the current system isn’t working and residents have been to the fore in campaigning for a new and adequate system that will meet the needs of the village, protect the environment and allow for local families to build homes.

“The neglect and indifference of Irish Water and the Government when it comes to Bonmahon cannot be allowed to continue.”

Speech: Easter Commemoration 2022 – Portlaw, Co. Waterford

Go raibh mile maith agaibh a chairde, as ucht an cuireadh bhieth libh inniu i bPort Lách. Is mór an onóir domsa labhairt ag an gcomóradh seo. 

Its a great honour to have been asked to speak at the Portlaw Easter Commemoration and to stand here where our dearly departed comrade Jackie Whelan so often stood. We remember Prish Morrissey who passed away last March and who we also miss here today. They stood by the Republic, even when it was no easy thing to do. I know they are greatly missed by their families and by their comrades here, and we are all thinking of them both today. 

We think also of Cathleen Ní Fhathaigh who was lost to us earlier this year, and send our love to her family and our support to her comrades in the Carrick on Suir RFB and across the wider republican family. 

Easter is a special time for Republicans. We gather at this time of the year, as people gather all across Ireland, to remember those who fought and died for Irish freedom.

We come together to honour those who struck for freedom in Easter Week 1916 and in every generation since.

We recommit ourselves to the cause of the independence, sovereignty and unity of Ireland and to a 32-County socialist republic based on liberty, equality and solidarity.

This year marks the centenary of the Irish Civil War, which might more accurately be termed the Irish Counter-Revolution. In recent weeks we marked one hundred years since the end of British rule in Waterford, with the taking of Dungarvan Castle by the IRA on March 4th 1922 followed soon after by the taking of the infantry barracks at Waterford. 

The ending of British rule in Waterford was hard fought and hard won. IRA volunteers, members of Cumann na mBan, Sinn Féin activists, Gaelic Leaguers, old Fenians and members of the Gaelic Athletic Association all put their shoulder to the wheel in support of the national movement – in support of Ireland’s freedom. 

One hundred years ago IRA volunteers had an opportunity to breathe and to take stock, but there was no opportunity to relax or retire from the fight. They knew the fight was not over, that the apparent victory was imperfect. Connolly had given a clear warning to the Citizens Army in 1916.  He said “in the event of victory, hold on to your rifles, as those with whom we are fighting may stop before our goal is reached. We are out for economic as well as political liberty.”

Ireland was newly divided by Britain’s Government of Ireland Act and by the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

In the Six Counties the nationalist population was subjected to a vicious pogrom led by the B Specials and Royal Irish Constabulary.

Inthe 26 Counties many people believed Michael Collins when he said the Treaty gave Ireland the ‘freedom to achieve freedom’.

However, it soon became clear that, as Connolly had predicted, men were getting into power who would do nothing to undermine their new power base.

The Free State became a vehicle for those who had either opposed or stood aside from the revolution – big business, landed interests, the Catholic Hierarchy.

Urged on by inducements and threats from the British, Free State forces bombarded the Four Courts at the end of June 1922 and began the Civil War. 

For the Irish nation it was an immense tragedy. Irish Republicans saw all their hopes of a free, unitedand socially just Ireland dashed.

Nonetheless they continued the fight for freedom. Thousands suffered imprisonment.

Seventy seven republicans were executed officially in Free State prisons.

Many more were murdered having been captured in large-scale military operations by Free State troops using British guns, adopting Britain’s tactics, and in many cases answering to British officers. We think of Commandant Tom Keating who was shot, captured and left to slowly die from his wounds. The barbarity of the Free State campaign against the Republic has never been answered for its modern day apologists within the southern political establishment. 

Its fitting that we take time to remember and acknowledge  especially the role of republican women:

Cumann na mBan rejected the Treaty; all six women TDs voted against it; the Free State imprisoned far more republican women than the British did.

Partition unleashed what Connolly had predicted as a ‘carnival of reaction’. Women who had dreamed of freedom, who had fought for freedom now found themselves subject to a deeply reactionary state, where the entire apparatus of that state seemed fixated on controlling women, denying them their rights, and undermining their power and ignoring their contribution to society – a situation that would last for many, many decades. 

In spite of all, the desire for liberty remained and the republican ideal survived.

As Constance Markiewicz put it: “while Ireland is not free I remain a rebel, unconverted and unconvertible. There is no word strong enough for it. I am pledged as a rebel, an unconvertible rebel, to the one thing – a free and independent Republic”

The Movement was rebuilt. There would be another day.

Partition not only divided our island and our people. It created two conservative states and economies, controlled and run in the interests of privileged elites, North and South. The vision of the Proclamation and the Democratic Programme as betrayed. Workers were to be exploited by new, native masters – while the wealth of the nation would be squandered not by absent British aristocrats but by a new Irish elite. 

Inequality was at the heart of the two states and we continue to live with that legacy.

The division of Ireland has held back our potential for too long.

There is now a real opportunity to shape a better, more prosperous, more equal future.

We now have the means to achieve an economically strong, socially just United Ireland.

There is now a democratic process which allows everyone to participate in planning and preparation for constitutional change.

This facilitates a peaceful transition to a United Ireland that belongs to all. Provision for a unity referendum is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.

Every day, developments at home and abroad are leading to the holding of such a referendum. The post-pandemic world faces new economic challenges. This island can no longer sustain two separate tax regimes, legal systems, economies and health and education systems. Many would argue that it never could. 

All-Ireland integration is vital for the  development of public services, investment, economic development, social inclusion and diversity.

Unity benefits all our people, north and south, unlocking the potential of this island.

A United Ireland will receive the support and goodwill of the international community.

Unity is central to building a modern, inclusive, fair society and a country which can play its full part in the world.

A Citizens’ Assembly can and should play a major role ahead of a referendum on a united Ireland – setting out a clear pathway for a new, United Ireland prior to a vote.

The Irish Government must stop prevaricating and establish a Citizens Assembly to create a democratic foundation to prepare for a referendum on unity.

2022 marks 50 years since the collapse of the old Stormont regime in 1972. It was a regime built on foundations of discrimination, sectarianism and inequality.

Today we are in a very different place. The political landscape in the North has changed considerably in recent years and republicans have been central to driving that change.

Further change is on the way. Next month will see elections to the Assembly in the North. 

This election is about the future, about the next generation and what people, from whatever background or tradition, can achieve if we work together. 

Ireland is changing and now is the time to face the world as a place that is moving forward, confident and ready for the future.

People got a glimpse in recent months of what is possible from an Assembly and an Executive that gets a chance to deliver.

The first thing that Michelle O’Neill did when the DUP walked away from the Executive was to convene a meeting of party leaders to get work done.

And it worked – the Assembly passed legislation on climate, housing, on women’s rights, the cost-of-living crisis.

This was matched by initiatives by Executive  ministers, despite the actions of a Tory government constantly undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

Imagine a full term of that sort of leadership and that sort of delivery.

That is what Sinn Féin is going to make happen.

We will work with others to build a new future in a new, better Ireland.

After 5th May Sinn Féin is committed to getting the Assembly and Executive back up and running without delay.

We want to build a partnership government.

We want the opportunity to lead, not just in the Assembly and Executive but across Ireland.

We are determined that in the time ahead Sinn Féin will lead a government in Dublin.  

Other political parties may talk about unity in the far off distance, but they have had a hundred years to try undo partition. Not only have the failed, but they failed to even try.

Waterford has its part to play in delivering on real political change. The message must go out loud and clear – if we want Irish unity, if we want an Irish republic worthy of the name – where workers and families come before vulture funds and speculators –  then we need to elect Sinn Féin to government. 

Sinn Féin is planning to run three candidates in the next General Election. It is a hugely ambitious plan, but we are determined to keep step with the people and with the huge demand for change and for a return to Republican principles. 

Success will require all shoulders at the wheel and I would appeal to everyone here to get involved. As Bobby Sands wrote  “everyone has a part to play; no part is too big or too small.”

Irish republicanism has always been internationalist in nature. We have benefitted from the goodwill of supporters abroad and we have never been found wanting when asked to stan in solidarity with struggles for freedom and equality in other parts of the world. 

It is fitting that we would send our support and solidarity to the peoples of Ukraine and Palestine this Easter, as both continue to live under attack from powerful neighbours that seek to destroy and dominate them. 

The Irish people have been horrified in recent weeks by the illegal and unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the attendant slaughter of civilians. Many of us have also been deeply struck by the violence unleashed by Israel against Palestinian civilians in recent weeks – which is just the latest in their decades-long campaign to deny Palestinian nationhood and usurp territory. 

As republicans and anti-imperialists we say very clearly that no country should be subject to the kind of military aggression faced by Palestine or Ukraine. 

The international community must press for the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and for an end to Israel’s apparent impunity for the crimes of annexation, collective punishment and apartheid. 

There are those among the elites who have cynically sought to hijack the strong empathy of the Irish people for Ukraine, by seeking to undermine Irish military neutrality.

While we will always call out oppression and send our solidarity and support to those fighting oppression, we cannot confuse this with the demands by some within the southern political establishment for Ireland to join an international military alliance, or to support the imperialist interventions of some countries in their former colonies. 

This is a clear affront to the wishes of the Irish people who, in opinion poll after opinion poll have shown clear support for military neutrality.

Sinn Féin believes there is now a responsibility on the government to support calls for a referendum to have Irish military neutrality enshrined in the constitution.

The opportunities for moving to a new United Ireland have never been so great.

Real political, social and economic change on this island is within our grasp.

The old certainties are gone.

In the North, the perpetual unionist political majority has ended.

In the South, the grip of the conservative parties is significantly diminished.

Sinn Féin is on the rise.

Now is the time to build a new Ireland.

An Ireland that will be a fitting tribute to the patriots we honour today.

An Ireland that will be a modern, progressive and fair country, fit for all who live here.

Irish Republicans in 2022 are as determined as those who have gone before us to realise the vision of the 1916 Proclamation – an independent, united Ireland and a real republic built on the foundation stones of equality and social justice for all citizens.

Tá uallach mór oibre le dhéanamh a chairde, agus beimíd ag braith ar a chéile chun ár dtionscadail stairiúl a chur i gcrích. 

Beirimís bua a chairde!

Up the Republic!!

Campaign to tarnish Dungarvan Pride ‘beyond pathetic’ – McGuinness

A Co. Waterford Councillor has branded an online campaign to tarnish the recent Dungarvan Pride festival as ‘beyond pathetic’. The festival organisers and local performer Lady FiFi Fondue, who fronted the event, were subjected to a barrage of homophobic trolling online in the wake of the inaugural event, which was held in Abbeyside’s Walton Park.

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness took to social media to support those involved in the event and to condemn the abusive and bigoted online campaign directed against them.

McGuinness said:

“I send support and solidarity to all involved in last week’s very successful, family-friendly Dungarvan Pride festival.

“Unfortunately a small number of far-right activists, many affiliated to the so-called ‘Irish Freedom Party’ have decided to target what was a wonderful day and a fantastic community gathering. Their coordinated campaign of trolling is beyond pathetic.

“I wouldn’t normally even comment on it but when individuals are singled out then political leaders have an obligation to stand up and to stand with them.

“These right-wing internet trolls hide behind anonymous accounts to spread misinformation and trying to whip up homophobia for their own sad ends.

“What they fail to realise is that their hate has no currency, they have no support, and they speak for no one.

“I will continue to offer my full support for the LGBT+ community locally, and to stand against bigotry no matter where it comes from. We’ve come too far to allow anyone drag us down.”

McGuinness secures commitment from HSE on GP patient placement

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has secured a commitment from regional HSE management that the health service will take the circumstances of individual patients into account when assigning them to a new GP. The commitment was given to the Sinn Féin representative at a meeting of the HSE Regional Forum at which McGuinness had secured cross-party support for a motion on the issue.

McGuinness said:

“My motion called on the HSE to ‘have regard to the specific medical need, geographic location, and/or mobility issues of individual patients when assigning them to a new GP’, and was tabled in response to the situation locally where patients in Dungarvan found themselves assigned to a GP in another town, with no regard to their ability to travel, their ongoing needs, or their medical conditions.

“The situation in Co. Waterford is part of a wider crisis in general practice, where the shortage of doctors is causing chaos for tens of thousands of patients. There is shortage of GPs across the state many practices are under severe pressure. It is proving impossible to fill vacancies when GPs retire or move away

The Irish College of General Practice has referred to a ‘severe shortage’, with 1,600 doctors required to cover current shortages, and an additional 500 to cover projected shortages due to retirement. At present Ireland is only training some 230 doctors per year and not all of these will enter general practice. The response of the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party coalition is to bury their heads in the sand.

The commitment given by the HSE on foot of my motion won’t solve the crisis, but it will ensure that the needs of patients are taken into account the next time a situation arises where a GP retires or moves abroad. The outlook provided by the Irish College of General Practice shows that this will become a more frequent occurrence in the years ahead.

“My colleague David Cullinane has raised the crisis in general practice with the Minister for Health on the floor of the Dáil and has outlined what a Sinn Féin government would do to address the crisis. We need action to expand GP and primary care services now, to increase capacity in doctor training, and to explore the option of directly hired GPs where necessary. David and I will continue to work together to ease the impacts of the crisis on patients across Dungarvan and West Waterford.”

McGuinness: Waterford’s soaring house prices demonstrate Government failure to address affordability crisis

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that the latest Daft.ie house price report shows that despite two years in office, the Fianna Fáil / Fine Gael / Green Party coalition has utterly failed to address the affordable housing crisis. 

The report shows house price increased by almost 12% in Co. Waterford over the past year –   far more than the state-wide average increase of 9.5%. The increase in Waterford City was 13.5% during the last 12 months

McGuinness said:

“The latest Daft.ie house price report shows house prices continue to spiral upwards. 

“State-wide, house prices have increased by 9.5% in the last year. Nineteen counties have double digit inflation, with both Waterford City and County in this bracket. House prices in Co. Waterford have increased by one full percentage point per month over the past year, while the pattern has been even more dramatic in the City.

“The Fianna Fáil – Fine Gael – Green Party coalition has been in power for two full years. Monday June 27 is the second anniversary of Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien’s tenure of office. During that time, he has utterly failed to address the affordable housing crisis.

“Not one single affordable home has been built in Waterford City and County during this time. Only a handful of affordable homes to purchase have been delivered in the state, despite inheriting a €300 million fund from his predecessor that was meant to deliver 6000 affordable homes by 2021. 

“During his two years in office, homelessness has returned to pre pandemic levels. In the last 12 months child homelessness is up over 40%. Single person homelessness has reached 5000 or the first time. 

“Meanwhile the crisis in the private rental sector gets progressively worse. Rents spiral upwards while the sector is shrinking as accidental and semi-professional landlords exit the market.

“Report after report on house prices, rents and homelessness demonstrate that this Government is failing an even greater number of people, and that Minister O’Brien is failing as his predecessor Eoghan Murphy did. 

“Budget 2023 is an opportunity to change direction. To dramatically increase direct capital investment in the delivery of at least 20,000 public homes a year to meet social and affordable housing needs. This is what is required to tackle the ever-growing affordability crisis.”

Stradbally Volunteer Jack Cummins remembered

West Waterford Sinn Féin marked the 101st anniversary of John ‘Jack’ Cummins over the bank holiday weekend. Jack was an active Volunteer with the Stradbally Company, 4th Battalion, West Waterford Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. He was shot and killed on the 5th June 1921.

He joined Sinn Féin because he believed an independent and united Ireland was the only guarantee of a decent future for his people. It wasn’t long before he joined the IRA and became a dedicated volunteer under the leadership of 4th Batt Commandant Tom Keating.

He was killed in action during an IRA ambush on British Troops at Ballyvoile. The IRA withdrew under heavy gunfire as British reinforcements arrived in the scene. They managed to recover Jack’s body and he is buried in Stradbally.

Wreaths were laid at the monument that marks the spot where he was shot and killed, and at his grave.

Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann. I measc laochra na nGael go raibh sé.

New Development Plan must work for rural communities – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Waterford’s new development plan must work for rural communities and address the hardships faced by so many families in securing planning permission under the old 2011 plan.

McGuinness said:

“Waterford has been subject to an outdated and inadequate development plan for five years or more. The current plan came into force in 2011 and should have been replaced in 2017.

“One of my key priorities as a Councillor has been to make a new, fit-for-purpose development plan and I was vocal in campaigning for this work to begin following false starts and delays that can be traced back to Fine Gael and Labour’s forced merger of local authorities and their abolition of town councils in 2014.

“Work on a new development plan to finally replace the 2011 plan has been underway for some time and will hopefully conclude in the coming days. My priorities in making the plan have been to ensure sufficient land is zoned for housing in our towns, that our villages can grow and thrive, that the Gaeltacht is protected, and crucially, that young families from rural communities can secure planning permission.

“The 2011 plan puts inordinate barriers in the way of rural families building their own homes. It has caused real hardship for families across Co. Waterford and has contributed to the housing crisis in our towns and villages, as families that want to continue living in their rural communities have been forced to enter the housing market in urban areas – thereby adding to demand.

“Government policy seems designed to force young families out of rural Ireland and into larger towns and cities. Planning regulations, the ongoing failure to deliver broadband connectivity nationwide, a failure to invest in rural communities and services, and the entirely inadequate roads budget all point to a desire to force people from the countryside.

“I have argued forcefully for a more understanding and considered approach in the new development plan, that will allow planners to take into account the social and economic connections that applicants have to their homeplaces.

“My hope is that there is sufficient political support to make a new development plan that works for rural communities.”

McGuinness brings Heilbhic dredging cause to Brussels 

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has raised the failure by the Irish Government to provide the necessary funding to dredge Cé Heilbhic with the European Commission this week. McGuinness is in Brussels as part of a Sinn Féin-led delegation highlighting the negative impacts of the Common Fisheries Policy on the Irish fishing sector.

The West Waterford Councillor is a member of the European Committee of the Regions and has been consistent in campaigning on fisheries issues at both local and national level. He says the failure by the current Government and its successors to solve the dredging issue at Heilbhic has prompted him to raise it at EU level.

McGuinness said:

“The European Commission earlier this year provided the Irish Government with an unprecedented €35 million of funding to be spent on local authority owned piers and harbours. Despite Waterford City and County Council submitting an application for funding to begin the process of dredging Cé Heilbhic the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have refused to make the necessary funding available.

“This same Department requires local authorities to undertake expensive surveying and preparatory work before dredging can take place. This work can often cost as much if not more than the actual dredging. It devising the funding scheme it has decided that it won’t fund this key preparatory work, creating a situation where local authorities are unable to access funding for dredging. Heilbhic has fallen victim to this ridiculous Catch-22 situation. 

“This is a working fisheries harbour supporting commercial operations. It is also home to the RNLI Helvick and Dungarvan Lifeboat. The harbour has become full of sand and silt over recent years and is in dire need of dredging. As things stand boats cannot enter or leave the harbour during low tides, and the situation is getting exponentially worse. 

“Boats returning to port with their catch often have to wait at sea until the tide rises enough to allow them enter the harbour. There are serious concerns about the lifeboat being unable to respond to an emergency call at low tide due to being stuck in the harbour. Will it take a tragedy at sea before the coalition parties get their act together? 

“Responsibility for this situation lies with the political leadership of the Department – Fianna Fáil Minister Charlie McConalogue and his Green Party and Fine Gael junior ministers. He makes the regulations of the scheme and he has the ability to amend them. He is treating us as fools by trying to hide behind arbitrary rules that he himself has the authority to make, break or change.

“I have alerted the European Commission to the fact that the Department is using its own arbitrary rules to prevent European funding going to where it is needed – that the Government is presiding over a situation where a fisheries harbour is becoming unusable while the EU is providing some €35 million precisely to avoid this type of situation.

“Ultimately responsibility for this mess lies with Minister McConalogue and his colleagues in the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party Government.That said, the European Commission has a responsibility to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent correctly.  

“It is beyond time for action on this issue.”

McGuinness writes to HSE management over assignment of Dungarvan patients to Cappoquin

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has written to the HSE Head of Primary Care regarding the allocation of Dungarvan-based patients to a doctor in Cappoquin. The situation has arisen due to the retirement of a long-standing and much respected Dungarvan family doctor.

McGuinness said:

“Its not acceptable that patients based in Dungarvan would be assigned to a GP in Cappoquin without any regard for their specific medical needs or ability to travel. For those with complex medical conditions or mobility issues such a move will cause hardship and impact on accessibility. The recent letters of assignment issued by the HSE has already caused great anxiety, particularly amongst older and infirm patients.

“I have written to the HSE Head of Primary Care to complain about the manner in which patients were assigned a new GP, and asked that the assignments would be reviewed with regard to patient’s individual needs.

“The situation that has arisen in Dungarvan is a direct result of the widercrisis in general practice, where a shortage of doctors is causing chaos for tens of thousands of patients. The Irish College of General Practice has referred to a ‘severe shortage’, with 1,600 doctors required to cover current shortages, and an additional 500 to cover projected shortages due to retirement. At present Ireland is only training some 230 doctors per year and not all of these will enter general practice. The response of the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party coalition is to bury their heads in the sand.

“My colleague David Cullinane has raised this issue with the Minister for Health and has outlined what a Sinn Féin government would do to address the crisis. We need action to expand GP and primary care services now, to increase capacity in doctor training, and to explore the option of directly hired GPs where necessary. David and I will continue to work together to ease the impacts of the crisis on patients across Dungarvan and West Waterford.”

Housing Minister’s announcement ‘too little, too late’ for Waterford – McGuinness

Cllr Conor D. McGuinness (SF)

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Minister O’Brien’s changes to the homeless HAP rates for outside of Dublin are too little, too late for Waterford. He said the proposed changes demonstrate an ignorance of the realities facing cities, towns and villages outside the capital.

McGuinness said:

“Last week Minister O’Brien made two changes to the Housing Assistance System. He raised the basic rate for single people and he increased the discretionary rate for homeless and at risk of homeless cases outside of Dublin from 20% to 35%. While the belated decision to raise the base rate for single people is welcome, the decision to raise the homeless HAP uplift rate outside of Dublin to 35% is disappointing. 

“People in emergency accommodation and at risk of homelessness in Dublin can avail of a 50% uplift. There is no reason why people outside of Dublin should not receive the same level of support. The Homeless HAP uplift rate should be 50% across the state. This decision suggests that the Minister is totally ignorant of the realities facing cities, towns and villages outside the capital. It begs the question, are his colleagues in Fianna Fáil not feeding the information to him? Does he simply not care about areas outside his own constituency? 

“The private rental market is West Waterford is dysfunctional. The word ‘crisis’ is no longer adequate to describe the situation of next to zero supply and huge and growing demand. Day in day out I am contacted by families and individuals that are only a step away from homelessness, who are staying in unsafe, inadequate or overcrowded accommodation in order to avoid becoming homeless.

“The changes proposed by Minister O’Brien are too little and too late. What was missing from the Minister’s statement was a more fundamental change to reverse the growing over-reliance on rental supports such as HAP, RAS and Rent Supplement.

“There are almost 100,000 households in receipt of rent subsidies. A third of all private rental tenancies are in receipt of HAP, RAS and Rent Supplement. The cost of these subsidies this year is almost €1 billion euro. Year on year more money is spent by Government on subsidising private rental than on building houses. 

“This year, Government plans to increase HAP tenancies by at least 10,000 households. This is because they are not delivering sufficient social housing.

“The Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party coalition must increase their underwhelming and unambitious targets for social housing delivery and outline a plan to reduce the number of households in insecure and expensive subsidised private rental accommodation.

“Minister O’Brien must also ensure that Councils are free to purchase private rental properties with HAP, RAS and Rent Supplement tenants in situ with notices to quit and who are at risk of homelessness.”

Sinn Féin only party to oppose LPT increase for Waterford homeowners

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness was the only West Waterford political representative to vote against a 10% increase in the LPT. Sinn Féin had instead proposed a 10% reduction in LPT for Waterford homeowners. The vote took placee at the July meeting of Waterford City and County Council, and comes ahead of a re-valuation of homes, which will undoubtedly take into account the dramatic increase in house prices over recent years. 

McGuinness said:

“Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Green Party, Labour and some Independent members of Waterford City and County Council have voted to maintain the 10% increase in the Local Property Tax that was introduced last year. 

“Sinn Féin proposed a decrease of 10% to give homeowners in Waterford a break. 

“The decision of the establishment parties stands in start contrast to the vote in the Dáil last week which saw the Government parties continue to give multi-million euro tax breaks to investment funds so that they can snap up entire housing developments and lease them back to local authorities. 

“The LPT is a tax on the family home – its unfair, regressive and penalises people for owning their home. It heaps more expense on top of families that are balancing mortgage payments, with increasing utility prices, and a general increase in the cost of living. 

“Government needs to recognise and value local government – they need to stop neglecting local services. The first step is to provide adequate funding to Councils, funded from the exchequer i.e. from the income taxes, USC, VAT on essential items, stamp duty, and all the other charges, levies and taxes that workers and families pay.

“Our Council is perpetually starved of resources by Government. We are still many millions away from achieving pre-recession levels of funding, and services are suffering. Government would rather put their hands in working peoples pockets than address the tax breaks, loopholes and sweetheart deals that mean our public services are consistently underfunded.

“Sinn Féin in Government will get rid of the LPT and ensure that councils are funded sustainably from the exchequer to ensure delivery of public services at local level.”

Notes:

* Independent Councillors Séamus Ó Donnell, Mary Roche, Joe Kelly and Joe Conway voted for the 10% increase. All other Independents voted against. 

* Fianna Fáil Councillors Adam Wyse and Eddie Mulligan voted against the increase, as did Labour Councillor Séamus Ryan. All other Fianna Fáil and Labour councillors voted for a 10% increase. 

*All Fine Gael and Green Party councillors voted for a 10% increase. 

McGuinness secures unanimous support for Cé Heilbhic dredging call

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness won the backing of all Dungarvan-Lismore District Councillors for his motion that calls on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to allow his Department fund the preparatory works required to carry out dredging at Cé Heilbhic. McGuinness brought a formal, written motion before the July meeting of the Dungarvan-Lismore District Council. 

McGuinness said:

There is a dire need for dredging at Cé Heilbhic. Fishermen have experienced great difficulty in entering or leaving the harbour for some time, due to the build up of silt and sand. This situation is impacting the ability for local fishermen to effectively and safely carry out their work.

“Heilbhic is also strategically important due to the presences of the lifeboat station, which covers Dungarvan Bay and adjacent waters. There are concerns locally that the lifeboat may be unable to launch in an emergency situation – which puts lives at risk. 

“The build up of sand and silt at Heilbhic has taken place over several years and is getting worse as time goes on. Not only is it hampering the fishing industry locally, but it has also added more risk and hardship to an already dangerous occupation.

“As it stands, the Department of the Marine can provide funding to dredge harbours such as Cé Heilbhic, however they refuse to fund the necessary preparatory work that is legally required before dredging can take place – this includes assessments and planning that can sometimes cost as much as the dredging itself.

“The ball is firmly in the Government’s court on this issue. My hope is that the cross-party backing that I secured for this motion will add to the pressure on Minister McConalogue to make this common-sense amendment to his Department’s funding regulations. 

Lismore housing development may not go ahead – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor for West Waterford has said that action is required in relation to the proposed construction of 17 houses at Railway Gardens in Lismore. He made the comments after council officials confirmed to him that the developer is not in a position to proceed with the project as agreed, and that it is now unlikely to go ahead. 

McGuinness said:

“Many younger couples and families from Lismore and surrounding areas are struggling to find accommodation in their hometown. They want to live here and to raise their families in the town. 

“The delivery of affordable and social housing in Lismore is crucial to allow younger people from the area remain living here or to return home to their community. 

“It appears that the Railway Garden’s social housing project is in serious trouble and will not go ahead as planned. The Council has confirmed to me that that developer cannot or will not proceed with the project.

“I believe the Council needs to take decisive action to ring fence the funding it has to hand, and to envisage an ambitious project for this site that includes a mix of affordable and social housing, and that protects the green space and outdoor amenity thats in daily use by existing residents. 

“The development needs to include affordable units alongside council-owned properties to take into account local need and the reality faced by many who find themselves just above the Council’s income thresholds. 

“I will continue to push for state investment in housing across West Waterford to meet the huge demand that is causing such difficulty for young people and families. 

McGuinness appointed Peace Commissioner for Waterford

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has been appointed as Peace Commissioner for Waterford and adjoining counties. 

The powers and duties of Peace Commissioners consist primarily of taking statutory declarations, witnessing signatures on documents if required by various authorities and signing certificates and orders under various pieces of legislation. 

It is an honorary position and a peace commissioner receives no remuneration or compensation from public funds. Peace commissioners are also not entitled to charge or receive for their own benefit any fee or compensation from members of the public.

McGuinness received his warrant of appointment from the Minister for Justice and is the first Sinn Féin politician to be named as a Peace Commissioner for Waterford. 

Speaking following his appointment Cllr McGuinness said: 

“Its an honour to be appointed to this voluntary position, and I am grateful to the Minister for seeing beyond party political lines and recognising the reality on the ground in West Waterford. There is considerable demand for the services of a Peace Commissioner in the area in terms of witnessing signatures and taking statutory declarations. 

“This appointment allows me to offer an enhanced service to my constituents across West Waterford, in terms of completing application forms and other official paperwork. I will undertake the duties of this appointment with the utmost integrity and I am very much looking forward to assisting my constituents in this new position.

“I will offer a fully bilingual service as Peace Commissioner for Waterford. Cuirfidh mé seirbhís i nGaelainn ar fáil ar fur fad an Chontae dóibh siúd a theastaíonn uatha a ghnó a dhéanamh trí mhéan ár dteanga náisiúnta.

“Currently, due to the public health situation, I am offering online clinics and I can arrange to meet in person with constituents by appointment. I hope to resume regular face-to-face clinics across West Waterford as soon as the situation improves. 

“As ever, I can be contacted on 087 9345603, at conor.mcguinness@sinnfein.ie or via social media. Full information on the role of Peace Commissioner, and a schedule of my regular advice clinics can be found on www.conormcguiness.ie

Update on Covid situation in West Waterford

05 July 2021

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has given an update on the Covid-19 outbreak in West Waterford, and commended the community, the public health team, and the National Ambulance Service for their response to date.

McGuinness said:

“There has been a huge response from the community locally, with well over 10% of the population attending for a test over the past ten days. People are taking this situation seriously and acting responsibly to protect themselves and their community.

“We want our community to be safe, and we want to see West Waterford fully open this summer.

“Thanks to everyone that has shown their support and played their part – those looking after relatives, those isolating, the 2000+ who presented for testing, the businesses and clubs that took difficult decisions in the interests of protecting the community, and the national ambulance service personnel doing trojan work in the test centre. 

“I  have been in regular contact with the HSE over the past fortnight through my role on the Regional Health Forum.

“As recently as Friday afternoon I was engaging with Ms. Kate Killeen-White, the Chief Officer of the HSE in the South East, to ask that the testing centre would remain open into this week. 

“Although the HSE has decided not to open the test centre this week  they will continue to monitor the situation closely They have committed to re-open if required.

“The test centre at Kilcohan in Wateford remains open 7 days a week. If you need a test but cannot travel to Kilcohan call 1800 700 700 and the HSE may be able to offer you an at-home test. 

“I believe we are coming very close to controlling this outbreak. Testing, tracing and a doubling down on the basic precautions should see us overcome it. “

New Sinn Féin cumann for Lismore LEA

West Waterford Sinn Féin has decided to establish a new cumann in the Lismore Local Electoral Area (LEA) to support the continued growth of the party in that area. Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness welcomed the decision and said that it demonstrates the appetite for political change that exists across Waterford. 

McGuinness said:

“Sinn Féin is growing across Co. Waterford. Our membership has increased dramatically over the past two or three years, and we are widely recognised as the most active political party across the City and County. 

“In my own area of West Waterford the party structure is going from strength to strength. Sinn Fein is looking ahead and putting an ambitious strategy in place to secure additional Dáil seats at the next general election, and to build on the work and visibility of our current Council Group in the next local elections. 

“Sinn Féin is organised into local branches that are known as cumainn. The Lismore LEA is a natural place for the party to expand by establishing a new cumann. We have scores of activists in the area, which includes Tallow, Ballyduff,, Knockanore, Lismore, Villierstown, Cappoquin, Touraneena, Ballynamult and Ballymacarbry.

“This is a positive step forward for Sinn Féin and for all those locally that want to see real political change in Ireland. The West Waterford cumann is to be commended for the hard work that has brought the party to this point. It will continue to operate within the Dungarvan LEA, and will work closely with the new cumann in the months and years ahead. 

“I am very privileged to represent the whole of West Waterford and this development will certainly assist me in my work. 

“We hope to hold an inaugural AGM in the coming weeks. For more information or to get involved in Sinn Féin locally give me a call on 087 9345603.”

Time to declare Waterford an ‘LGBT Freedom Zone’ – McGuinness

The leader of the Sinn Féin group on Waterford Council Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Waterford should be formally declared an ‘LGBT+ Freedom Zone’. 

Cllr McGuinness said:

“Waterford is an open, welcoming and tolerant place. The strong stand by the LGBT community itself as well as the outpouring of solidarity and support over recent weeks has shown that. As Pride month comes to close I think it is fitting that we formally declare our City and County to be an ‘LGBT Freedom Zone’. 

“Over the past month my abiding concern about the taking down of the pride flags and the appearance of homophobic posters has been the impact on young people that are coming to terms with their identity, or who are finding their place in society. We need to send a strong message to them – to tell them that we’ve got their back, and that we will face down hate and discrimination.

“The idea of ‘freedom zones’ began earlier this year as a way for towns and cities to demonstrate their support for LGBT+ members of society and their opposition to homophobia and discrimination.They stand in contrast to the homophobic ‘LGBT-free zones’ that have appeared in parts of Poland and Hungary, where rights for same-sex couples are under attack. 

“We people of Waterford have strongly rejected the recent cowardly manifestations of intolerance and homophobia in the City. The declaration of Waterford as an ‘LGBT Freedom Zone’ allows us to re-state our conviction that we are a safe, tolerant and welcoming place for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.”

Government must stand up for fishermen and end unfair treatment – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has urged the government to stand up for Irish fishermen and end the long-running injustices in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

He made the comments at the demonstration by fishing families that took place on the Liffey and outside the Convention Centre in Dublin. All five of Waterford’s Sinn Féin councillors attended the demonstration alongside Waterford TD David Cullinane, and the party’s fisheries spokesperson Padraig MacLochlainn TD. 

McGuinness said:

“We are calling on the government to stand up for Irish fishermen and end the injustice of the current Common Fisheries Policy. This terrible policy has devastated Ireland’s fishing communities.

“This government has failed to act and stand up for our fishing communities.

“They have sat idly by again while an injustice has continued whereby Ireland has 12% of the waters in the EU but our fishermen are only allowed to catch 4% of the fish”

“This costs our State thousands of jobs and hundreds of million worth of seafood every year. It is shameful and the government has shown it is totally unwilling to act and stand up for our fishing communities.

“Fishing is an intrinsic part of the life of our communities all along the Waterford coastline, from Youghal Bay to the Suir Estuary.

“The economic potential of our sea fisheries sector has not been fully realised. Damaging and neglectful policies by successive governments have held the industry back, while our maritime natural resources have been gifted to large-scale fishing operations in Spain, France and Belgium. 

“We now need a statement of intent from our government that they will fight tooth and nail for Ireland’s fair share of the fish in our waters when the Common Fisheries Policy is revisited.

“We also urgently need an equal burden sharing of the loss of fish quota arising from the EU/ UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement amongst the fishing fleets of all EU Member States. This quota loss amounts to tens of millions of euro each year to our fleet.

“Locally we need to see targeted investment in maintaining fisheries harbours, including dredging Cé Heilbhic, as well as a resolution to the landing ban for British registered boats at Dunmore East. 

“Today the fishing community has come out in force in Dublin to send a strong message to those in power that this disgraceful situation cannot continue any longer. I am calling on the government to listen to their calls. 

“Sinn Féin will stand with our fishing communities and stand up for their rights.”

McGuinness welcome HSE move to open test centre in Dungarvan

20 June 2021

Sinn Féin Councillor and Waterford representative on the Regional Health Forum Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed the move by the HSE to open a temporary test centre in Dungarvan in an effort to control the outbreak of Covid-19 in West Waterford.

McGuinness said:

“A ‘pop-up’ Covid testing site will open Dungarvan from Thursday 24th June 2021 to Saturday 26th June 2021 between the hours of 11am to 7pm. I had asked the HSE to offer walk-in testing in the area in light of recent worrying developments in West Waterford

“The temporary test centre will be located in the grounds of Dungarvan Community Hospital (Eircode X35WA22). Anyone that has not tested positive for the virus in the last six months can avail of a free test here. Those under 16 must be accompanied.

“The testing centre in Kilcohan in Waterford City remains open and anyone wishing to attend for a test tomorrow is advised to present there. If you are experiencing Covid symptoms please stay at home and contact your GP or the HSE on 1800 700 700.”


“Thanks to the HSE public health management for their quick response to this request”

McGuinness comments on emerging Covid Situation in West Waterford

20 June 2021

Sinn Féin’s representative for West Waterford Cllr. Conor D. McGuinness has commented on the emerging situation in the area and has appealed for people to double down on the basic public health precautions. He also called on the HSE to open a test centre in Dungarvan to help address the situation locally.

McGuinness said:

I am aware of an apparent cluster of cases emerging in West Waterford and I am in ongoing contact with the HSE through the Regional Health Forum. 

“My thoughts are with those affected. It is a very worrying time, and my heart goes out to those who have become unwell. I wish them a speedy recovery. 
“I would appeal for people to respect the privacy of those involved, and the HSE are keen to underscore the very basic safety messages – observe social distancing and avoid crowded spaces; wash or sanitise your hands regularly; cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; wear a mask in public indoor spaces; and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that may be touched by others. 
“Testing is underway. Unfortunately this is only taking place in Waterford City, which is placing an additional difficulty on families on what is already a worrying time. I have asked the HSE to open localised test centres precisely for incidents of this nature, however Government has declined to take this approach. 
“I want to commend the businesses locally that have taken the decision to close temporarily as a precaution. It comes as a blow to them given the economic hardship of the past 18 months but its the right thing to do.”

House Price Increases hitting young families the hardest – McGuinness

Responding to the Daft.ie survey that showed a dramatic increase in house prices in coastal locations Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness said that young families and bearing the brunt of out-of-control inflation in the housing market.

McGuinness said:

“Young couples and families in Waterford are being priced out of their communities. This is especially true for locations such as Ardmore, Dungarvan and the Gaeltacht. Demand far outstrips supply, and it has become impossible for young families to find a house to purchase. 


“The recent Daft.ie survey shows that prices for properties in coastal locations have increased by 23% since the start of the pandemic. The same survey shows a state-wide price increase of 8.7%. The Central Statistics Office published figures recently showing a 6% increase in house prices in the South East, which is significantly higher than the national average. 


“This is exacerbating the already dysfunctional housing market, and making it even more difficult for local couples and families to find a property within their own community. If left unchecked it will spell the demise of rural communities, which run the risk of being turned into holiday resorts. 


“There is a related phenomenon happening in the private rental sector, where an already difficult situation is being made worse by an increased prevalence in short-term lettings. Many property owners are opting to offer houses and apartments on Airbnb and similar platforms rather than renting them to families as it can be more lucrative. This is further impacting supply and resulting in increased rents locally. 


“The Government has an obligation to intervene in this situation. Sinn Féin has been campaigning for an ambitious multi-year house-building programme to include social and affordable units. The electorate clearly voted for a change in policy last year. Instead they got a new minister implementing the same failed policies of his predecessor.

 
“Ten years of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil incompetence has led us to the current situation. The pandemic has exacerbated it, but families were being priced out of their communities for many years before Covid-19 arrived on our shores. 


“We need change. The Government can’t keep its head buried in the sand or hiding behind soundbites. The only solution is for the state to deliver affordable purchase homes across communities on large scale and on an ongoing basis to meet supply.”

‘Restore the Right to Retire at 65’ – Waterford Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called for the right to retire at 65 to be restored by Government. He made the call as the Sinn Féin Council group submitted a motion to Waterford City and County Council that supports the campaign to overturn the Government’s unfair policies on retirement and pensions. 

McGuinness said:

“At last year’s election, voters sent a message loud and clear that they want to restore the right to retire at 65 on the full pension rate. Next week this government will have been in power for a full year, yet they have failed to act and simply stalled on this issue. 

“People want to see real change and they want to see urgent reform to the pension age. Delays aren’t good enough.

“Sinn Féin are bringing this motion to Waterford Council to stand up for workers and show the government that a year of dithering and delay isn’t acceptable and cannot continue. They must commit now to restoring the right to retire at 65.

“People who worked hard all their lives deserve the right to their full pension at 65. It’s time to restore the right to the full rate.

“This is a fundamental issue of dignity for workers. When they reach 65, after a lifetime of work, workers deserve the choice to retire on the full pension rate or to work on in their job. 

“The government thinks that if they ignore this issue for long enough it will go away, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This situation is unjust and Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for workers to ensure they get fair pension rights.”

“We must restore the right to retire at 65. These workers have worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes, paid into the system and who deserve their pension at the full rate.

“This is about choice – workers who wish to work beyond the age of 65 must be allowed to do so. Sinn Féin’s motion gives workers the choice at 65 to continue to work or to retire on the full pension rate, so that workers can decide. To force workers to retire at 65 is unjust.

“I am calling on all councillors to stand up for workers and back our motion. The appetite for change that we saw last year hasn’t gone away. Workers want to see a fair and just pension system which treats workers with dignity and gives them the choice.

“Next week marks a year of this government being in power- a year of inaction and failure to bring about the change that people want.

“Sinn Féin is committed to ensuring that this change is delivered and will continue to hold the government to account on their responsibility to listen to workers and treat them fairly.”

Text of the Motion

That Waterford City and County Council:

  • acknowledges that every worker in the State makes a considerable tax contribution throughout their working life and should have the right to access the full pension rate of pay when they retire at 65;
  • recognises that some workers want to retire at 65, while others want to remain at work, where they are able and willing to do so;
  • notes the difference of €45.30 between the Jobseeker payments and the State Pension leading to an annual loss of €2,355.60;
  • and calls on the Government
  • to restore the State Pension Transition payment for those retiring at 65 years of age;
  • to abolish mandatory retirement (with exceptions for security-related employment) to give workers the choice to work or retire so long as they are fit to do so;
  • to ensure that workers who choose to work on, do so on their own terms and conditions of employment and are not compelled to sign fixed term or short term contracts of employment;
  • to make provision for those who remain at work beyond 65 to have their Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions counted towards their State Pension; and 
  • to commit not to further increase the State Pension age.

McGuinness welcomes European Commission competition charges against Insurance Ireland

Sinn Féin Councillor and EU Council of the Regions member Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed preliminary findings by the European Commission that Insurance Ireland broke competition rules by denying insurance companies and new entrants access to its claims data sharing platform.

McGuinness had drafted the Sinn Féin submission to the European Commission that triggered the investigation. He said the preliminary findings revealed “cartel-like” behaviour at the heart of the industry that reduced competition, reduced consumer choice and increased insurance prices – effectively rigging the market in favour of the big insurance companies and against the interests of customers.  

Speaking after the findings were published by the European Commission, McGuinness said: 

“Today’s findings by the European Commission are a damning indictment of an insurance industry that has acted like a cartel against the interests of Irish consumers.

“This process began with dawn raids in July 2017 at the offices of a number of insurance companies, following a submission that I had prepared with colleagues in European Parliament that called for a wide-ranging investigation into potential breaches of competition law in the Irish market.

“After a two-year investigation that began in May 2019, the Commission has given its preliminary view that Insurance Ireland broke competition law by denying certain insurance companies and new entrants access to its Insurance Link platform – a critical claims data sharing system.

“By doing so, Insurance Ireland put new entrants at a distinct disadvantage in the Irish insurance market.

“This reduced competition and consumer choice, ensuring that consumers were denied lower and more competitive insurance prices.

“Insurance Ireland represents the biggest players in the Irish insurance market, with its members covering 90 percent of the motor insurance market.

“This practice has taken place over a decade in which motor insurance premiums have increased by 35 percent.

“This is a scandal, and comes less than a year after the Competition Authority found that some of the biggest players in the Irish insurance industry, including AIG, Allianz, AXA, Aviva and FBD engaged in price-signalling between 2015 and 2016.

“Behaving like a cartel, the industry has effectively rigged the system against the interests of new entrants and consumers.

“Sinn Féin has been unwavering in our criticism of the practices of the insurance industry, while others were too quick to regurgitate their spin.

“We need to reform this market to ensure that it serves customers fairly.

“Sinn Féin has progressed legislation to increase transparency, ban unfair pricing, and reduce premiums, and we will continue to hold the industry to account.

“Insurance Ireland should now respond to the Commission’s Statement of Objections without delay with this investigation brought to as swift a conclusion as possible.

“If this investigation ends by confirming the preliminary findings published today, the full weight of accountability should be brought to bear on Insurance Ireland.”

McGuinness is a member of the European Council of the Regions – the EU body for local and regional authorities. He worked with the Sinn Féin team in the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019 and carried out extensive research and engagement regarding the Irish insurance market during that time. He drafted the 2016 submission to the European Commission requesting they launch an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices within the Irish insurance industry. 

New CSO house price figures paint a hopeless picture for Waterford homebuyers – McGuinness

Sinn Féin’s leader on Waterford City and County Council Conor D. McGuinness has  said that the latest house price figures from the CSO paint an “increasingly hopeless picture for homebuyers”.

McGuinness said:

“The latest CSO house price index shows the average price increases outside of Dublin stands at 4.9% for houses, while apartment prices rose by 11.3%.

“The increase in house prices for the South East which stands at 6%, is significantly higher than 

the state average of 4.5% and the non-Dublin average increase of 4.9%. 

“A recent survey of property prices by Daft.ie shows that there has been a state-wide increase of 8.6% in asking prices, and that coastal properties have been hit by a huge 23% increase – a face that is causing great hardship in towns and villages along the Waterford Coast. The housing crisis is being further exacerbated for young families in Ardmore, Dungarvan and An Ghaeltacht who are being priced out of their own communities. 

“This residential property price inflation, in the midst of a pandemic, indicates that prices are continuing to rise, and homes are being pushed even further out of reach for homebuyers.

“To place this growth in perspective, there has been a 91% increase in house prices state-wide since 2013.

“This is with the Central Bank mortgage lending rules in place and without price hikes being fuelled by excess credit and 100% mortgages.

“Buying a home has become an increasingly hopeless prospect for ordinary people on decent incomes and I genuinely think the government does not understand the scale of the problem and level of anger out there.

“The alternatives out there such as renting for longer to save isn’t an option for many people with monthly rents now higher than mortgage repayments.

“There are fewer and fewer options out there for people, and that is deeply troubling.

“We need to reverse this trend and start providing people with hope.

“The State must step in and deliver affordable purchase homes that people can afford, at scale, with no hidden equity charges.

“Action must be taken. The government has an opportunity with its new housing policy and with Budget 2022 to truly make a difference for all those ordinary workers struggling to buy a home.”

McGuinness calls for multi-agency mental health crisis team for Waterford

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called for the establishment of a multi-agency mental health crisis de-escalation team in Waterford. 

McGuinness said

“I am calling on the Government to establish a mental health crisis de-escalation team for Waterford. Such a team would involve mental health professionals and specially trained members of the Gardaí. The idea is that if there is a person experiencing a mental health crisis in our community then this specially trained team will meet the person, triage them, treat them and refer or bring them to the appropriate service.

“As things stand, families have few good options for protecting a loved one who is experiencing an acute mental health crisis. Those responding, whether Gardaí or Emergency Department staff, are not always trained or equipped to provide crisis interventions or to de-escalate situations where a person might be a risk to themselves. 

“This proposal is a core component of the Sinn Féin motion on emergent responses to the mental health crisis that was passed in Dáil Éireann in April, and a similar scheme is already up -and-running in the North. 

“The Department of Justice has confirmed that a pilot scheme is due to begin in Limerick next year – seemingly without the knowledge or involvement of the Minister for Mental Health Mary Butler. The Government needs to work on communications between Departments, particularly when it comes to multi-agency cooperation on a topic as important as this. 

“While it is welcome that some movement has begun on this proposal, a pilot in one county is not enough. These teams need to be rolled out across the state immediately. I am calling on the Government to ensure that Waterford is not left behind.”

Waterford Sinn Féin condemns homophobic incidents

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane and Council Group Leader Conor D. McGuinness have condemned the removal and burning of pride flags on the Mall in WaterfordCity on two occasions this week.

The flags were flown last weekend to mark International LGBT Pride month, and to coincide with the Pride of the Déise festival. 

Deputy David Cullinane said: 

“It’s dreadful to see Pride flags outside the Council offices being cut down in Waterford City. This is the second time in a week that pride flags have been taken down at this location. Those responsible do not speak for Waterford.

“I’m proud to fly the flag over my constituency office and to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community.”

Councillor Conor D. McGuinness said: 

“There has been huge progress in the fight for equal rights in recent times – due to the tireless work of generations of activists who refused to be deterred in their fight for equality and respect.

“Yet, despite the clear progress we have seen in many areas, the struggle for full LGBT equality is far from over.

“That two pride flags were taken down and set alight last Monday, and that the replacement flags were cut down again overnight, speaks of the intolerance that sadly still exists amongst a tiny minority of people. All political voices have a responsibility to condemn this behaviour, and to show their solidarity for the LGBT community.“

South East’s 6.5% house price increase illustrates Government failure on affordable housing – McGuinness

The Sinn Féin leader on Waterford City and County Council, Conor D. McGuinness has said the Government is continuing to fail on affordable housing.

The West Waterford Councillor made the comments in response to the latest CSO Residential Property Price Index report, which shows that house prices have continued to rise.

McGuinness said:

“The latest CSO Residential Property Price Index report makes for depressing reading. In the last 12 months house prices have increased by 3% across the state and by an eye-watering 6.5% in the South East region.

“The report also shows that the selling price for apartments has risen by a staging 9.5% in areas outside Dublin, including the South East. 

“This is why so many people can not access affordable homes to rent or buy.

“The continued rise in house prices is a direct result of failed Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil housing policies. This has to change.

“Government must start to invest in the large scale delivery of affordable homes to rent and buy. 

“This will require a significant increase in funding for Councils and Approved Housing Bodies. It will also require the setting of ambitious yearly targets for the delivery of affordable homes for working people.

“Supply side policies like Help-to-Buy and Shared Equity Loan schemes will only push prices up further.

“Likewise, underinvestment in affordable homes will do little to meet the growing need.

“With just 90 affordable homes-to-purchase to be delivered this year, it is clear this Government does not understand what is required to deliver the volume of genuinely affordable homes that working people need and deserve.”

McGuinness: Córas Séarachais Nua ar na bioráin don Rinn

Chuir an comhairleoir de chuid Shinn Féin Conor D. McGuinness fáilte roimh roimh dhearbhú ó Uisce Éireann go bhfuil pleananna do chóras séarachais nua don Rinn i anois sa chéim dhearaidh.

Siad McGuinness:

“Tá géarghá leis an gcóras séarachais sa Rinn a uasghrádú agus táim tar éis stocaireacht a dhéanamh ar a son le blianta beaga anuas. Níl an córas atá ann faoi láthair oiriúnach don fheidhm atá leis, nó don éileamh atá air.

Tá sé neamhéifeachtach agus tarlaíonn teipeanna rialta go leor. Cuireann sé moill, nó bac iomlán ar iarratais pleanála sa cheantair, agus cruthaíonn sé fadhbanna rialta do theaghlaigh lo blocála agus bolaithe. 

“Tá an córas atá ann as-dáta agus lag fo leor. Tá drochthiochar aige ar an gcomhshaol – ar chaighdeán an uisce agus ar an timpeallacht mhuirí ach go háirithe.

“Tá áthas orm gur aontaigh Uisce na hÉireann liom maidir leis an ngéarghá atá sa Rinn, agus leis an bhforbairt mhór seo a chuir i gcrích. Tá súil agam go dtabharfaidh an córas nua aghaidh ar na fadhbanna go léir atá ann anois, agus go mbeidh an cumas agus an toilleadh ann chun freastal ar an gceantair amach anseo. 

“Dheimhnigh Uisce na hÉireann dom gur gcuireadh tús leis an gcéim dhearaidh, agus go bhfuil sainchomhairleoir ceaptha. Meastar go gcuimseoidh scéim na n-oibreacha séaraigh nua, príomhphíopaí nua ardaitheacha, agus dhá stáisiún caidéalúcháin nua, lena n-áirítear ceann nua i mBaile na nGall.

“Cé nach bhfuil sé ar tí tarlú, is scéal dearfach é go bhfuil an réamhobair tosnaithe. D’iarr mé ar Uisce Éireann dul i mbun chomairliúcháin poiblí chun cinntiú go bhfuil tuairimí an phobail curtha san áireamh ag an gcéim seo.”

New Sewage System in the pipeline for An Rinn – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed confirmation from Irish Water that plans for a new sewage system for An Rinn have now entered the design phase. 

McGuinness said:

“I have been campaigning for a major upgrade to the sewage system in An Rinn for several years now. The existing system is not fit-for-purpose, its inefficient, ineffective and prove to failures. It has held back many planning applications, and causes regular problems for homeowners. 

“The weak and outdates system has had very severe and worrying impacts on the environment, and has affected water quality and the marine environment in particular.

“I am glad that Irish Water has agreed to this major development. My hope is that the new system addresses the current weaknesses and has sufficient capacity to serve the area for decades to come. 

“Irish Water have confirmed to me that the project has now entered design phase and a consultant has been appointed. It is envisaged the scheme of works will include new sewers, new rising mains and 2 new pump stations, including one at Baile na nGall. 

“Although not imminent, it is very welcome that work has begun. I have asked that the public be consulted during this stage to ensure that their views are taken on board during design.”

Retrofit scheme for council houses should come West – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that the limited energy retrofitting scheme for council houses that was announced recently should be used to improve the efficiency of council houses in West Wateford.

Speaking at the plenary meeting of Waterford City and County Council, McGuinness said: 

“I am aware that the Council has been given the green light by Government to carry out deep retrofitting of 48 houses in 2021. This doesn’t go far enough. It signals a lack of ambition on the part of Government to address climate change, and sums up their general approach to housing policy – inadequate funding and disinterest.

“I have corresponded directly with the housing director and with the Chief Executive about the real need for energy upgrades to social housing stock in West Waterford.

“I want to put on the record my call that this limited funding should be ring-fenced to carry out much needed improvements to housing stock in West Waterford. We have a number of estates that have had little to no work carried out on them since they were first build – where windows and doors have long-since passed their natural lifespan and are in disrepair, or where insulation was not a factor when they were built. 

“Not only does this lead to cold and dampness in these houses, but it results in unsustainable energy bills for families, and it is bad for the environment. 

“There is a need for balance when it comes to the allocation of funding within Waterford. Its not good enough that some estates in West Waterford have neglected over the years when it comes to upgrading or retrofitting.”

McGuinness: Government must legislate for disabled people’s right to independent living

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that the Government should introduce legislation to ensure that Personal Assistance Services (PAS) is delivered for those that require it. He made the comments after Waterford Council passed a Sinn Féin motion in support of the Independent Living Movement’s PAS campaign. 

McGuinness said:

“Waterford Council has given its unanimous backing to the campaign for adequate and accessible Personal Assistance Services for disabled people. The campaign is calling for the Government to fulfil its obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)  and to legislate to ensure PAS is delivered for all those that require it.

PAS provides the freedom and flexibility needed to live an independent life. It assists service-users with a range of day-to-day tasks that they cannot physically do themselves, but puts them in the driving seat. A benefit of PAS is that it reduces dependence on family and friends, and service-users report that its allows them to maintain their privacy and dignity. 

“PAS services are available in Ireland but on a very limited basis. Some 44% of service users receive an average of 42 minutes per day, with another 40% receiving less than 3 hours per day. The Independent Living Movement argue that a limited service such as this does not  allow service-users to live independently, to access education or employment, or to become involved in meaningful social engagement. They state that disabled people with reduced services of this nature can become trapped in their own homes without the chance to interact and may be prone to isolation and depression.

“The Government has already signed up to the UNCRPD, which commits Ireland to providing a range of supports to support  full inclusion and participation in the community, and the Dáil has passed a motion in support of the campaign. It is time for Government to stop dragging its heels on this and to legislate for an adequate and accessible service.”

Survey on rip-off insurance premiums launched

Sinn Féin has launched a survey of people’s experiences with rip-off insurance premiums.

The party’s leader on Waterford Council Conor D. McGuinness said:

“We have launched a survey of people’s experiences with rip-off insurance premiums.

“My party colleague Pearse Doherty TD has been battling to end the insurance rip-off and we want to know if your premium has been reduced or if it remains too high.

“There is real concern that the insurance industry is not passing on reductions to customers as a result of new guidelines that reduce the cost of claims. This is unacceptable.

“If you have received a renewal quote since 24th April 2021, let us know your experience. Fill out the survey, take a stand and help end the insurance rip-off.

“For far too long, insurance companies have been ripping off customers with sky high costs that aren’t fair, while the government simply turns a blind eye. This needs to stop and we’re determined to hold the insurance sector to account and stand up for customers.”

Click HERE to take the survey.

Council assistance requested to keep An Coinigéar clean

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has asked the Council’s Environment Department for its assistance in keeping An Coinigéar clean. The sand spit that stretches across Dungarvan Bay is popular with walkers and runners alike. 

Speaking at the May meeting of the Dungarvan-Lismore District Council, McGuinness said:

“An Coinigéar is a wonderful and very popular local amenity. The vast majority of those that visit leave it as they found it. Unfortunately littering is a persistent problem. At this time of year there is an increase in people camping or barbecuing on the sand spit. Over recent weeks there have been two incidents where rubbish, damaged tents, the remains of a fire, bottles and cans were dumped on the beach.

“Those that treat our shared spaces like this should be prosecuted and receive the toughest sanctions under the law. I cannot understand the level of disrespect and indifference that leads them think its acceptable to leave their rubbish for someone else to clean up. 

“A small group of local people carry out regular clean ups and the Council does coordinate with them to take the rubbish they collect. These volunteers are to be commended for their work in keeping An Coinigéar clean and for protecting this unique and sensitive coastal environment. 

“Unfortunately the scale of the littering that has taken place, and the distance from the car park, makes it increasingly difficult for volunteers to keep the area clean. I am requesting that the Council coordinates with the local group and with the national Clean Coasts initiative to provide more hands on assistance when it comes to clean ups in this area.”

McGuinness calls for accessibility audit on outdoor seating schemes

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called on Waterford City and County Council to undertake an ‘accessibility audit’ of its 2021 outdoor seating scheme to ensure that it doesn’t impede on people with disabilities or those with reduced mobility.

McGuinness said:

“The 2021 outdoor seating scheme is going ahead and will provide a relief to many businesses across the city and county. I have concerns however, about the impact of tables, chairs and planters on people with disabilities and those with reduced mobility. 

“I have asked the Council to engage with the voluntary bodies in Waterford that represent people with disabilities, or that advocate on their behalf, to get their input. There is an onus on the Council to conduct an accessibility audit at this stage, and to address any issues found during that audit. 

“Everyone should be able to use our public spaces and amenities, our footpaths and paved areas without facing barriers and obstacles, or the fear of falling. My concern is that the addition of street furniture, coupled with the current bad state of footpaths, could negatively impact on accessibility. 

“This issue affects people with disabilities, as well as some older and infirm people. It also affects people with prams and buggies. There has been a number of serious trips and falls in recent months and the Council is risking huge financial exposure by not addressing this issue now.”

The Planning Director Michael Quinn responded that his Department would engage with the relevant organisation to identify any difficulties that exist. 

McGuinness calls for traffic management plans, community consultation ahead of summer season

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness called on the Council’s Roads Department to put traffic management plans in place for popular amenities and visitor attractions across Co. Waterford ahead of the sumer tourist season. He made the call at the May plenary meeting of Waterford City and County Council. 

McGuinness said:

“Last year we saw traffic chaos in towns and villages across Waterford due to increased visitor numbers. There was also a problem with parked cars impeding access and leading to dangerous situations for pedestrians and other motorists. 

“I raised this issue previously and I welcome the fact the the Roads Department is now engaging with Gardaí n relation to parking regulations enforcement this summer in coastal locations such as Ardmore, Bonmahon and Clonea. 

“We need to see this engagement broadened to include inland areas that are likely to see traffic problems and parking chaos again this year, such as Crough Woods, Colligan Woods and Mahon Falls. 

“I’m calling on the Council to ensure that dedicated traffic management plans are put in place for these areas for the summer season, and that these plans should be developed in consultation with the local communities affected.”

Roads Director Fergus Gavin agreed and undertook to continue the engagement with An Garda Síochána. He said the Roads Department would communicate with the communities affected.

Heilbhic dredging funding anomaly raised with Minister – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has raised the anomaly regarding funding for dredging works with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine during an online meeting on fisheries issues. 

Speaking after the meeting McGuinness said:

“I met with Minister Charlie McConalogue this evening and raised the urgent need for dredging at Cé Heilbhic. I explained to him the Catch-22 situation that his Department has created when it comes to funding local authorities to carry out dredging works. 

Cé Heilbhic is a working fishing harbour and hosts the RNLI lifeboat station that serves Dungarvan Bay and adjoining waters. Over the past number of years a build up of sand and silt has meant that  at low tides vessels are unable to enter or exit the harbour. 

“It desperately needs to be dredged, however the Department will not fund the preparatory and licensing works that are required to take place before dredging can begin. These works can often be as expensive as the actual dredging, and Waterford City and County Council is reliant on support from the Department to fund them. 

“While the Department is happy to fund dredging, at present they will not fund the essential preparatory work that is required, leading to a Catch-22 situation for Heilbhic. 

“Meanwhile the problem is getting worse, fishing boats are being put in dangerous situations, and there are concerns about the ability of the lifeboat to launch in an emergency. 

“I am glad that the Minister took my concerns on board and has undertaken to examine the regulations. My hope is that he adopts a sensible approach and amends the regulations to allow for preparatory work to be covered by the funding scheme.”

Road safety measures for St. Mary’s NS


Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has asked the Council to install enhanced road safety measures at both the Mitchell St. and Youghal Road entrances to St. Mary’s National School in Dungarvan. He raised the issue at the May meeting of the Dungarvan-Lismore District Council. 

McGuinness said:

“I have received representations from several quarters in relation to road safety concerns at both the Mitchell St. and Youghal Road entrances to St. Mary’s National School. I have engaged with school management, with parents and with the school warden. 

“On the Mitchell St. side there is a concern about the tendency of cars to pull in close to the pedestrian crossing. While there is double yellow lines and zigzag markings on either side but these do not deter cars from pulling in. This impacts on visibility, and means that the warden is forced to contend with four lanes of traffic rather than two. It can also lead to tension and distraction for motorists as they’re hemmed in or obstructed. I believe its only a matter of time before we see an accident at this location. 

“I am asking the Roads Department to add lines of flexible bollards where the double yellow lines and zigzag markings are act as a deterrent to cars pulling in here. 

“On the Youghal Road side, the yellow box markings outside the school gate is in line with the gate, which serves to create a corridor effect when vehicles are parked on each side. This means that children cannot see the road until they are at the edge, while motorists may not see children approaching from behind parked cars. Increasing the length of the yellow box markings would allow for a better and clearer view for both motorists and pedestrians.”

Speech: James Quain centenary commemoration

Speech by Cllr. Conor D. McGuinness at the centenary commemoration for James Quain held at Kinsalebeg, May 2021.

a chairde, 

James Quain

I want to say a few words this afternoon as we remember young James Quain, who was shot and killed one hundred years ago today. 

At the outset I would like to thank Liam Allen for organising this dignified commemoration to mark the centenary of this sad event. Liam is the chair of the Piltown Cross Ambush Committee and is a great representative for Sinn Féin in the Kinsalebeg / Clashmore area.

I am happy to see family members of James Quain here. I know his memory is treasured by his relations, and this is a day of sadness as well as pride. 

Liam sent me a photograph of James Quain during the week. I was immediately struck by his youth – here was a fresh faced young man, on the threshold of adulthood, and with his future to look forward to. 

We think back on that turbulent time in our country’s history and we imagine that those who participated in that war against empire were titans, giants of men, battle-hardened war heroes and veteran guerrillas. 

Some were, but for the most part they were young men and women, in their late teens or early twenties – old head on young shoulders., they were fearless, determined, visionary, but they were young and they had their whole lives ahead of them. 

They were excited for the future. They knew it belonged to them, and they set about the work of shaping that future. 

Their grandparent’s generation had starve under the yoke of empire. Their fathers and brothers had been mowed down at Gallipoli and the Somme as cannon fodder for the empire. Their mothers struggled under the enforced poverty that saw the wealth of their nation stripped by empire. 

James Quain knew that things had to change and that is why he looked up to the volunteers of the IRA and became involved in the Republican movement. He wanted to play his part in the struggle for Irish unity and independence. As a teenager he pressed the local leadership to allow him become an IRA volunteer. 

As the Tan War raged across Munster, the West Waterford Brigade of the IRA was bringing the fight to the British – forcing them to concentrate their numbers into ever fewer garrisons. The strategy was to liberate the country one bruning barracks at a time, to cut communications, and to make their oldest colony ungovernable. 

The IRA had put the British on notice: West Waterford was no longer to be considered part of the Empire. The message was being delivered loud and clear – the only safe place for crown forces was the boat back to England.

The Empire fought back – pouring men and weaponry into Ireland. Terrorising civilians and targeting towns and cities in vicious reprisals. 

They feared losing their oldest colony, but more than that they feared the radical and democratic revolution that was taking place across the country. Working people were fighting to liberate their country and to end the endemic poverty and inequality that marred their lives. 

The 3rd Battalion of theIRA covered an area stretching from An Sean Phobal along the coast to Ardmore and from An Rinn over the Drum Hills to Clashmore. The Battalion had been engaged in several operations against British forces including the Marines stationed at Ardmore. 

It was also involved in the intelligence war at local level, and had become adept at intercepting and disrupting enemy communications. 

The British believed the 3rd Battalion headquarters was located close to Ferry Point in and a detachment of 40 Marines landed here from Youghal on the 10th of May 1921.

The moved across the countryside in an effort to engage or apprehend the Republican forces. In a simultaneous operation a smaller unit of Marines moved out from Ardmore towards Ferry Point.

James Quain and his friend Eddie Lynch were on guard duty in the area. On observing the Marines they set out to warn their comrades, who were resting nearby. Some of the Marines were on motorbikes and weren’t long in catching up to the two young men. 

Called on to surrender, Lynch was taken into custody and Quain was shot and killed. Both men were unarmed. 

On hearing the shots, the local company quickly assembled and engaged the Marines, forcing them back to their boat and to Youghal. No other Republicans were killed, captured, or injured, and no arms or equipment was lost. 

The war would rage on in Waterford and around the country for another two months before the British were forced to seek a truce and to negotiate. 

The subsequent treaty and partition, the civil war, and the establishment of the Free State as a backward and conservative entity will no doubt be discussed in great detail over the coming months and years. 

In the midst of the analysis, discussion and reflection that will take place over the coming period, it is important that we remember the courage and dedication of young men like James Quain. Its important that we gather like this to remember him, but the only full and fitting tribute we can give him and his comrades is to deliver the Republic – to build the united and independent Ireland that he fought for, and that he ultimately died for. 

Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

Up the Republic!

Waterford mortgage holders left behind by government’s refusal to secure Covid-19 payment breaks – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has criticised the government for refusing to provide relief for hard-pressed mortgage holders, despite the European Banking Authority allowing for the reactivation of Covid-19 payment breaks since 2nd December.

McGuinness is a member of the European Committee of the Regions and has been following the authorisation of mortgage breaks across EU member states and regions  over recent months. 

McGuinness said:

“On 2nd December, the European Banking Authority reactivated its Covid-19 payment break guidelines to provide support and relief to borrowers.

“This would have allowed the government and the banks to put in place payment break extensions for the duration of the latest round of public health restrictions, with an application deadline of 31st March.

“This would have allowed banks to provide payment breaks without charging additional interest or impacting the credit records of borrowers. However, the government have refused to secure or even seek this extension for mortgage-holders and SMEs.

“This is despite so many workers and families being under significant financial pressure due to Level 5 restrictions.

“The reintroduction of targeted Covid-19 payment breaks would provide real relief to such borrowers, but they are being denied this relief by a slow and unresponsive government.”

Public lighting contract out for tender – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed confirmation from Council management that the local authority’s public lighting maintenance contract is currently out for tender. McGuinness has consistently raised concerns about value for money, responsiveness and other performance indicators in relation to the maintenance of public lighting in the Dungarvan-Lismore district. McGuinness raised the issue during the February meeting of Waterford City and County Council.

McGuinness said:

“I welcome the confirmation this afternoon that the public lighting maintenance contract is currently out to tender, and that council management has amended some the key performance indicators (KPIs) and terms in the contract in an effort to reach the highest standards of service.

“As this is a live tender I won’t make further comment except to thank Council management for listening to my feedback over the past number of months. The process is due to be completed over the coming month, with a new contract awarded in April.”

Government must fund dredging works – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that the refusal by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to fund dredging works in local authority fisheries harbours is penny wise but pound foolish. He made the comments after the February meeting of Waterford Council, where he had raised the issue of funding harbour improvements.

McGuinness said:

“The Department is quite prepared to provide us with funding to undertake structural improvements to our fishery piers and harbours. These are important works and the funding is very welcome, however its doesn’t make much sense when the same Department refuses to make money available to local authorities to maintain these same piers and harbours.

“Cé Heilbhic is a perfect example. The Government is happy to invest money in strengthening works to improve the pier and the breakwater, but in low tides the mouth of the harbour is impassable to all but the smallest of boats.

“The harbour badly needs to be dredged to remove a build up of sand and silt. Not only is this impacting the local fishing community, but it may also have an impact on the ability of the lifeboat station to provide its essential emergency services on Dungarvan Bay and adjacent waters.

“This is bureaucratic nonsense at its best. I am calling on Minister McConalogue to intervene directly to address this ridiculous loophole that has hamstrung Waterford Council and harbour-users over recent years. “

McGuinness welcomes N72 surface works and N25 safety improvements.

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed the inclusion of significant road surface improvement works along the N72, and the long-awaited safety improvement works on the N25. The works are included in the Annual Service Plan that was approved at the February meeting of Waterford City and County Council.

McGuinness said:

“I was glad to propose the adoption of the Council’s annual service plan which includes commitments to complete significant road surface improvement works among the N72. these works will see the completion of the ongoing works between Lismore and Tallow. It also includes the commencement of surface works at Ballyrafter and phase 2 of the Kealroe works.

“The road surface at these locations have been in dire need of improvement for years, and I have received frequent calls and messages from constituents about its condition. I am glad that these works will now go ahead. I have asked that the Council ensure regular and accurate communication so that road-users have plenty of notice of delays and diversions.

“I am also very happy that the long-awaited road safety works on the N25 form part of our 2021 plan. Sinn Féin has been making the argument for these works over the past number of years, and we made sure that sufficient funding would be available to carry out these works.

“The 2021 plan includes road safety works on the N25 at Leamybrien, Kiely’s Cross Cushcam and Carroll’s Cross. They will lead to some disruption on this route, but I have asked that advance notice is given of diversions and closures, and that sufficient space is made available for emergency vehicles.”

Development Contribution Scheme provide opportunity to incentivise eco-friendly homes – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that the pending review of the Council’s development contribution scheme provides a useful opportunity to introduce measures to make investment in eco-friendly methods and specifications more attractive to developers and self-builders alike. He made the comments at the February meeting of Waterford City and County Council, where management proposed the scheme would be reviewed in tandem with the drafting of the new city and county development plan.

McGuinness said:

“Its important that we review this scheme alongside the new Development Plan. Last month the Council provided a clear direction to the Chief Executive that the new plan should contain a very strong commitment to climate action. This direction included a focus on energy efficiency and micro-generation of clean electricity.

“I would like to see greater incentives for self-builders and for developers to future-proof new homes with high-spec energy efficiency features, and technology to support micro-generation of electricity.

“I believe the next Development Contribution Scheme gives us a chance to introduce incentives to make investment in eco-friendly methods and specs more attractive from a financial point of view. I can’t see why the Council wouldn’t be prepared to offer modest reductions in development charges for homes that include the highest level of energy efficiency, or that are set up to generate clean electricity.

“Such a policy would need to be complemented by national government funding to allow existing homeowners to invest in retrofitting energy efficiency measures, and support for local authorities to bring council housing stock up to spec.”

Casual trading shake-up passes Council – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has thanked fellow councillors for giving their unanimous backing to the new Casual Trading Byelaws that he helped to draft. The new regulations were formally adopted at the February meeting of Waterford City and County Council.

McGuinness said:

“As a member of the Economic Development and Enterprise Committee I am grateful for the unanimous support of the Council for these new and improved byelaws.

“I want to thank the council officials that oversaw a very well subscribed public consultation process, and who help us draft the byelaws at committee level.

“I believe they achieve a level of balance between city and county, between urban and rural, and between the toe and scale of trading areas on offer. There is also a healthy balance between the creation of a number of new trading areas and the retention of some long established ones.

“The byelaws allow for a trading area at Durrow Train Station on the Greenway, which will include much needed toilet facilities, as well as a brand new pitch at Ceann Heilbhic in the Waterford Gaeltacht. I am also particularly excited about the new farmers market in Tallow, and the potential to develop a similar offering at the train station in Kilmacthomas.

“I am also happy that the proposals that I have made regarding environmentally-friendly packaging, and the submissions made regarding single-use plastics, also made their way into the new byelaws. Its important that the Council supports a move away from non-compostable or non-recycling packaging.”

Roadworks funding delay causing concerns – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness questioned the ongoing delay affecting the allocation of Department of Transport funding for the annual Road Works Programme at the February meeting of Waterford City and County Council.

“A series of workshops were to take place across the three council districts this week to discuss the Road Works Programme for 2021 however these were canceled as the Department for Transport has yet to provide a funding allocation to Waterford Council.

“Our roads network requires significant investment and this funding is essential to keeping roads safe and accessible. The delay is concerning. We usually receive an allocation in January, which gives us time to decide priorities and put together district-level work plans.

“Given the current public health restrictions its harder than ever to schedule works. Every additional piece of uncertainty makes that task more difficult. This delay is not helpful, and it speaks to a general air of confusion and uncertainty on the part of Government.

“There are ongoing tensions within Government regarding the Green Party’s reluctance to provide funding for roads infrastructure. Concerns have been expressed that this delay might be part of a power play by Minister Eamon Ryan.

“Whatever the cause of the delay, we need certainty, and the Council needs to be assured that the Road Work Programme funding will be made available. “

Public must be consulted on sustainable transport projects roll-out – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that the public must be consulted at all stages and on all projects as part of the roll-out of the sustainable transport projects that have been announced by the National Transport Authority. McGuinness raised a number of questions regarding recent transport announcements during the February meeting of Waterford Council.

McGuinness said:

“Today’s announcement by the NTA is to be welcomed. Some of the funding had already been announced, but when taken together it does constitute a significant inward investment.

“Involving the public from the start, and truly listening to their ideas and concerns will be key in ensuring this money is well spent.

“The smarter travel initiative in Dungarvan several years ago has left a number of legacy issues, and led to significant public criticism. Its important that we learn the lessons and that public consultation is hard-wired into all the projects that will be funded under this new sustainable transport scheme.

“I would have liked to see greater investment in West Waterford, and while the bulk of funding is centred on the City and the East of the County, this type of investment will have a knock-on impact.

“I welcome the confirmation from Director of Services Fergus Galvin at today’s meeting that the new cycle design offices will result in 10 – 12 new jobs in the Council. Its unclear if staffing levels will ever return to what it was before the economic crash and the austerity years, but every increase is to be welcomed.”

Dáil must legislate on use of CCTV to tackle illegal dumping – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called on all parties to work together to address the legal issues surrounding the use of CCTV by local authorities to detect illegal dumpers. McGuinness raised the issue at the February meeting of Waterford City and County Council, where he asked that the Council write to each political party in the Dáil on the matter.

McGuinness said:

“I have long advocated the use of CCTV, and in particular mobile CCTV, to tackle illegal dumping. This criminal behaviour costs the taxpayer millions of euro every year, it harms our environment, and its a slap in the face to all of us.

“I questioned why CCTV was no longer being deployed to detect illegal dumpers at last months Council meeting, and in response it came to light that Waterford Council had been instructed to cease using CCTV by the Data Protection Commissioner.

“It appears that there are significant grey areas that need to be addressed in primary legislation before local authorities can confidently use CCTV to police illegal dumping, littering, dog fouling, and a host of other anti-social or criminal behaviour. I have already raised this with the Sinn Féin team in the Dáil and Seanad with a view to getting urgent legislation passed, however its clear that a cross-party approach may result in a quicker turnaround.

“This is something that needs to happen soon, and I have asked that the Council to write to the party whips in the Dáil, asking them to work together to bring back urgent legislation to address this grey area and to close the loophole that prevents local authorities from deploying CCTV.”

McGuinness secures backing for Wind Turbine submission

Sinn Féin’s leader on Waterford City and County Council has secured cross-party support to hold a single-purpose meeting of Waterford City and County meeting to prepare a submission to An Bord Pleanála regarding the proposed Lyrenacarriga wind farm outside Knockanore. The Councillor raised the issue at the February meeting of Waterford City and County Council.

McGuinness said:

“The Sinn Féin council group will be making a strong submission in support of the community in and around Lyrenacarriga. This is a vibrant rural community that supports a significant population.

“Waterford Council signalled its strong objection to this type of development in 2018 when it voted to amend the development plan. I believe the Council now has an obligation to make this position known to An Bord Pleanála in the strongest terms. I am glad that I received cross-party support for my proposal to hold a meeting to draft a submission. The final decision to call such a meeting rests with the Mayor, and I have issued him with a formal request.

“Wind energy has an important part to play in our move away from damaging fossil fuels, however we have a duty to be careful and considered in how we develop wind energy. I don’t believe the proposed development at Lyrenacarriga achieves the balanced and forward-looking type of development that we as a country need and deserve.”

Causeway Tennis Club saga finally resolved – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed the resolution of the long-running saga regarding the property occupied by the Causeway Tennis and Bowls Club in Dungarvan. McGuinness secured the backing of the full Council for his proposal to offer the club a 75 year lease on the land.

McGuinness said:

“This very complicated issue has been running for a long number of years, and I am glad that it has finally been resolved. Many public representatives have been involved in pushing for a solution during that time.

“The Causeway Tennis and Bowls Club provides a fantastic amenity for the people of Dungarvan, Abbeyside, and surrounding areas. It caters to all ages and provides a much needed piece of community infrastructure.

“Following on from the Council’s recent Compulsory Purchase Order I proposed that the land in question be disposed of by way of a 75 year lease. This offers a level of stability and sustainability for the club.”

Sinn Féin calls for Council submission on Lyrenacarriga wind farm application

Sinn Féin has called on Waterford City and County Council to make a formal submission to An Bord Pleanála regarding the Lyrenacarriga wind farm application. Group leader Cllr. Conor D. McGuinness has requested that a special meeting is called for Councillors to have their say on the proposed development, and to draft a formal submission to An Bord Pleanála. McGuinness has previously raised concerns aboutthe development of large-scale wind farm in environmentally sensitive parts of Co. Waterford, and in close proximity to rural homes and businesses.

McGuinness said:

“The application for this development has been submitted directly to An Bord Pleanála, over the head of Waterford City and County Council. It ignored the clear and democratic decision by Waterford Council in 2018 that make West Waterford a ‘No Go Area’ for this type of wind development.

“There are questions about efficacy, environmental impact, and legacy planning, not to mention the imposition on a vibrant rural community. For our part the Sinn Féin Council Group will be making a detailed submission. I believe the full Council should also meet to discuss this matter in detail and to formulate an all-of-Waterford, cross-party submission to An Bord Pleanála.

“Sinn Féin is in favour of sustainable energy. We believe that wind has a big part to play in the generation of clean electricity. My party colleague Brian Stanley has a bill before the Dáil to introduce common-sense, up to date, and fit for purpose regulations for the wind energy sector. I have argued for a commitment to micro-generation to be included in the County Development Plan that is currently being drafted. While we recognise that an urgent move from fossil fuels is essential, its important that we plan calmly and responsibly – and not rush to build colossal turbines in sensitive and vulnerable parts of our countryside.”

ENDS

Níor cheart seirbhísí stáit i nGaelainn a dhiúltú don Ghaeltacht – McGuinness

Dúirt Conor McGuinness, Comhairleoir de chuid Shinn Féin, go bhfuil deis ag an rialtas beart de réir a bhriathar a déanamh i dtaobh seirbhísí stáit sa Ghaeltacht, agus Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla á phlé sa Dáil faoi láthair.

Dúirt McGuinness:

“Tá Oifigigh Pleanála Teanga na hÉireann, maraon le go leor eagrais agus guthanna Gaetachta eile, ag éileamh ar an Aire Catherine Martin, agus ar an Aire Stáit Jack Chambers go gcinnteofar go mbeidh seirbhísí ón Stát ar fáil as Gaelainn sna ceantair Gaeltachta i mBille na dTeangacha

Oifigiúla.

“Caithfidh an Státseirbhís na dualgaisí atá acu a aithint agus a chomhlíonadh gan ceist maidir leis an dteanga náisiúnta, gurb í an phríomhtheanga oifigiúil í go dlíthiúil. Muna féidir leis an earnáil phoiblí cearta teanga saoránaigh na tíre seo a chosaint agus a ráthú, cén teachtaireacht a sheolann san amach?

“Cén mhaitheas Bille a dhréachtadh chun seirbhísí as Gaelainn “a láidriú” má theiptear go sonrach ar sheirbhísí ón Stát a bheith as Gaelainn sna Gaeltachtaí?

“Tá leasú ar an mBille molta ag Sinn Féin chun sainmhiniú soiléir agus daingeann a dhéanamh ar ‘inniúlacht sa Ghaelainn’, le cinntiú go mbeadh cumas láidiracu siúd atá fostaithe sa státseirbhís de barr a n-inniúlacht.

“Tá sé molta ag urlabhraí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta Shinn Féin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, gur ceart ar a laghad 20% do fhostaithe nua sa státseirbhís bheith inniúlacht sa Ghaelainn, agus ba cheart dóibh léiriú, ar a laghad, léibhéal B2 sa theanga, de réir an Comhchreat Tagartha na hEorpa um Theangacha. Is é an seo an bunleibhéal do fostaí a bhíonn ag feidhmiú trí Bhreatnais sa Bhreatain Bheag, nó in aon teanga sna hinstitiúidí de chuid an Aontas Eorpach.

“Caithfidh an rialtas seo beart de réir a bhriathar a dhéanamh. Gheall Fianna Fáil agus an Comhaontas Glas grian agus gealach do mhuintir na Gaeltachta roimh an olltoghcháin. Is léir anois go bhfuil siad ar tarraingt siar ar na gealltanais seo.

“Tá an deis anois ann reachtaíocht atá thar am chéanna féin a achtú, agus é a dhéanamh i gceart. Ná bíodh sé le rá gur theip ar an Stát aríst cothrom na Féinne a thaispeáint do lucht na Gaeltachta agus don nGaelainn ach go háirithe.”

CRÍOCH

McGuinness: Gaeltacht should not be denied state services in Irish

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor McGuinness has said that the Official Languages Bill, which is currently before the Dáil, provide the Government with an opportunity to do right by the Gaeltacht when it comes to the provision of state services in Irish

McGuinness said:

“Gaeltacht planning officers, along with many other Gaeltacht organisations and activists, are calling on Minister Catherine Martin and Minister of State Jack Chambers to ensure that state services are made available in Irish in the Gaeltacht areas in the Gaeltacht.

“The Civil Service must recognise and fulfill its duties in relation to the national language, which is also legally the principal official language of the state. If the public sector cannot protect and guarantee the language rights of the citizens of this country, what message does it send?

What good is drafting a Bill to “strengthen” services in Irish if there is a specific failure to provide state services through Irish within the Gaeltacht?

“Sinn Féin has proposed an amendment to the Bill to give a clear and strong definition of ‘proficiency in Irish’, to ensure that those employed in the civil service based on their Irish proficiency actually have enough Irish to fulfil their roles.

“Sinn Féin spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh, has recommended that a minimum of 20% of new employees in the civil service should be proficient in Irish, and should demonstrate at least a B2 level in Irish according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This is the basic level for an employee who works through the medium of Welsh in Wales, or in any language in the institutions of the European Union.

“The Government must practice what they preached. Fianna Fáil and the Green Party promised the people of the Gaeltacht sun and moon before the general election. It is now clear that they are rolling back these promises.

“We have an opportunity now to enact long-awaited legislation, and to do it right. Let it not be said that the State has once again failed to show fairness to the people of the Gaeltacht and to the Irish language in particular.”

Green Cert Places must be increased for Young Farmers – Conor McGuinness

Sinn Féin councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that the Government must intervene to address the disruption seen in the Green Cert applications system.

Conor McGuinness said:

“Students were told that they had secured places on Green Cert courses. Only after paying their fees were they informed that a mistake had been made.

“Refunds have been issued but the problem is far from resolved. The prospective students now have no place.

“Sinn Féin has written to the Minister to urge him to work closely with the education providers to maximise places for this year. The students that were offered a place should be given one.

“The qualification is extremely important to young farmers and young people interested in entering the sector. Delays to qualification can have real knock-on impact on farming careers and incomes.

“Young people cannot get into farming if the government is unable to provide the necessary training required to become a qualified farmer.

“Every year we have a situation where young people have to scramble for a limited number of places on Green Cert courses.

“Additional course places should have been created to meet the level of demand in advance of the opening of applications. There is just no excuse for this shortage.”

McGuinness: Uncertainty over Leaving Certificate cannot continue

Sinn Féin councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said the Government must listen to students, and give them an input on how their Leaving Certificate will take place.

McGuinness said:

“The past year has been very difficult for everyone, including children and young people in education. Leaving Cert students have been hit with uncertainty and confusion. Sinn Féin has engaged with thousands of Leaving Cert students, including with representative organisations such as the ISSU. They are understandably anxious and stressed. They do not feel like they are being kept in the loop.

“They are calling out for clarity and for their voices to be heard. Sinn Féin have listened. It is clear that students want a choice between alternative means of assessment and an exam for those who wish to sit one.

“The Minister talks about a traditional Leaving Cert, but she must recognise the realities. This has not been a traditional year. Students have lost enormous learning time last year and this year again, and it is at this point unclear when students will be back in the classroom.

“Not knowing what is happening is putting huge pressure on students, and I know from speaking to them and their families that it is seriously impacting on their mental health. The government urgently needs to give clarity to them.

“The lack of contingency planning is alarming. The Minister needs to set out a plan now to ensure that we don’t see a repeat of last year’s fiasco.

“If calculated grades are going to be used, then there are fairer ways of checking the accuracy of these grades. The Minister must urgently exam these and ensure that unfair school profiling and algorithms are not used.

“I also recognise that many students may still want to sit written Leaving Cert exams. These students must also be facilitated, pending public health advice. The Department of Education must do all they can to ensure that students have this choice to make.

“If a decision is made quickly, then all students can avail of CAO and UCAS offers this Autumn, regardless of their choice.

“The Minister need to urgently engage with all stakeholders, and to take the necessary steps to facilitate this choice.

“Sinn Féin want to be constructive. We will work with the Minister and all stakeholders and other parties to ensure that Leaving Cert students are given a choice, and will continue to work hard to give students a voice.”

Increased state investment in homes is the only way to address Waterford’s housing supply crisis – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has expressed his dismay at the Central Bank’s most recent financial outlook, which projects that 23,000 fewer homes will be built across the state between 2020 and 2022 due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. 

McGuinness said:

“The Central Bank has warned that with fewer homes being delivered, combined with rising demand due to a build-up of savings, the housing crisis could be exacerbated due to a lack of supply.

“The warning is stark, but it is not unprecedented. The Covid-19 restrictions were always going to impact the delivery of new homes.

“The housing market across Waterford means that its next to impossible for younger couples or individuals to buy a home, with a knock on impact on the private rental market. 

“Unfortunately, this government will fuel this rising demand for homes, which will lead to higher houses prices, with the introduction of their ‘affordable’ housing shared equity scheme.

“The most effective way to address the supply crisis is to double capital investment in public housing and reform the public spending code to deliver more social and affordable homes faster.

“In our Alternative Budget for 2021, Sinn Féin pledged to commence the largest public house building programme in the history of the state.

“We would increase capital expenditure for social and affordable housing by an additional €1.5bn on last year’s levels, bringing the total capital spend to €2.8bn

“This would deliver 12,000 real social homes, 4,000 affordable rental homes and 4,000 affordable purchase homes.”

Littering increase during pandemic restrictions – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that littering is on the increase locally, and that reports published this week by An Taisce and the Irish Business Against Litter group shows that this is part of a national trend of increased littering due to the pandemic. The West Waterford representative said there was a worrying level of PPE being discarded on the ground in public areas such as footpaths and car parks.

McGuinness said:

“Whatever the background to the increase, the fact remains that we all have a duty to dispose of our rubbish responsibly. The pandemic and restrictions are clearly factors in this increase, but we shouldn’t accept littering as inevitable or excusable.

“I am receiving frequent calls, texts and messages about littering in many of West Waterford’s most popular walks and trails, but I am also hearing reports about car parks and housing estates.

“The Irish Business Against Litter survey reports a sharp rise in the amounts of litter on approach roads to towns and villages, and along popular walking routes. This is clearly a result of an increase in people out walking.

“The majority of people are quite prepared to bring their rubbish home with them and throw it in their own bin. Unfortunately a small minority of people have no problem throwing their rubbish on the ground for someone else to tidy up.

“The Council and businesses also has a role to play here. Current policy is against installing additional public bins. I believe there is a strong argument to be made to place additional litter bins in busy pedestrian areas, and for them to be emptied more regularly.

“Businesses that offer take away food and drinks should be also play a greater role in tackling litter by using less packaging and encouraging their customers to return cups and other waste.

“I am very worried about the amount of disposable PPE, such as masks and gloves, that is being thrown on the ground. There is a clear public health concern about this type of littering. HSE advice is to dispose of used face masks in plastic bag, which should be sealed, and placed with normal household rubbish in a closed bin. Hands should be washed with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitiser.

“While additional bins and better enforcement is important, the key message has to be not to litter in the first place. Not only is it anti-social and damaging to the environment, but in the current circumstances its potentially dangerous.”

Bad landlords should face sanctions, not their tenants – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that HAP tenants are bearing the brunt of sanctions that are supposed to tackle the issue of bad landlords renting sub-standard or dangerous accommodation. Speaking at the January Plenary meeting of Waterford Council, McGuinness said that HAP tenants were being put in a Catch-22 situation.

He said:

“Tenants in receipt of support under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme are being forced into a dilemma when it comes to reporting sub-standard, unsafe of inadequate accommodation to the Council. 

“HAP tenants live in private rental accommodation while the Council subsidises a part of their rent. The scheme is in lieu of council housing, and was introduced as a recognition by Government that it could not, or would not, built sufficient housing units. Successive national budgets have allocated more money to this scheme to actual house-building. 

“I have previously raised the cruel dilemma faced by families in HAP accommodation who on one hand are concerned about the quality of their accommodation – and on the other hand don’t wish to have housing supports removed. 

“The one sanction that the Council has for dealing with bad landlords that let substandard properties is to remove HAP supports. Unfortunately this only affects the tenants, and pushes them close to homelessness.

“I know of several households in Dungarvan and across West Waterford, who will not report their accommodation to the Council, despite very serious and ongoing issues with the properties that is going unaddressed by landlords. These range from chronic dampness, faulty doors and windows, structural issues, exposed wiring and plumbing issues.

“Tenants know that an inspection will see the property deemed unfit, and rent supports stopped. In the current rental marker there is very little chance they can find alternative accommodation. They have to choose between an unhealthy or unsafe home, or no home at all. 

“This needs to be addressed. Its not fair that tenants are forced into this dilemma. Its also not right that bad landlords that continue to get paid from the public purse, while renting sub-standard, and sometimes unsafe, properties. 

“I have written to the Housing Minister asking for action to be taken to protect tenants in this type of situation, and I have requested that the Council’s Housing Department consider naming and shaming landlords that persistently rent out sub-standard or unsafe properties.”

McGuinness: Consultation on micro-generation scheme welcome, but supports must be available to all household types

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has given a cautious welcome to the public consultation on a proposed new micro-generation scheme. He made the comments at the January meeting of Waterford City and County Council. He said any micro generation scheme brought forward by Government mush be accessible to low and middle-income families as well as high-earners. McGuinness has been lobbying for greater supports for microgeneration and has made submissions on the matter to both the Southern Regional Assembly and as part of the Waterford Development Plan process.

McGuinness said:

“Microgeneration of energy offers a more horizontal, democratic and sustainable way of generating electricity at local level. Its becoming the norm across much of the developed world, and is a strong alternative to coal-burning power plants, nuclear energy and colossal wind farms. 

“It usually involves making electricity through small scale wind-turbines or solar panels on homes, farms or public buildings. That electricity is then used in the building, and excess is sold back to the national grid for use elsewhere. I have been lobbying for a commitment to micro-generation to be included in the forthcoming City and County Development Plan that is currently being drafted, and for Waterford to be a leader in championing a fair and socially just approach to climate action. 

“We have been waiting a long time for some movement on this issue. In fact it is almost four years since Sinn Féin introduced its Micro-generation Support Bill. While I welcome that Government have begun a public consultation on this issue, I am concerned given the historical failure of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to support micro-generation. 

“The Green Party track record on water charges and carbon taxes shows that they have no issue with passing the cost of climate action on to ordinary households, while we spend public money on fines to facilitate huge corporate polluters. They need to get this one right. A botched scheme will hurt ordinary workers and families, and will do little to address climate change. 

“Micro-generation works when its accessible to all household types, and where barriers, including financial barriers, are avoided through responsive and well thought-out public policy. For this scheme to work it needs to be accessible to ordinary people and families. Sinn Féin will be making a submission as part of the consultation, and I have asked that Waterford Council does likewise. 

“The closing date for submissions is 18 February and further details can be found on www.conormcguinness.ie or http://www.gov.ie.”

West Waterford Sinn Féin put best foot forward for 2021

West Waterford Sinn Féin is putting its best foot forward for 2021 and will seek to build on the large increase in activity and membership in 2020. The West Waterford cumann held its AGM via Zoom on Thursday and elected a strong officer board that is set to ‘hit the ground running’ for the year ahead. The meeting was addressed by Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform and Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell.

Support for Sinn Féin stands at 29% according to recent opinion polls. This makes it the most popular party in the state, having eclipsed Fine Gael, and counting almost twice as much support as Fianna Fáil. In the North the party is in joint place with the DUP at 28% in terms of popularity. 

Speaking after the AGM, incoming chairperson of West Waterford Sinn Féin, Seamus Kiersey, said: 

“Sinn Féin in West Waterford has hit the ground running for 2021. This is the time for us to demonstrate the vision and the ambition that is needed to deliver a fresh start.

Active Year for Sinn Féin

“2020 has been an exceptionally active year for us, despite the pandemic that is causing chaos at home and abroad. Sinn Féin’s vision to give workers and families a break really resonated with the electorate and saw David Cullinane elected with votes to spare. 

“It was an election called because the Fine Gael Minister for Health faced a motion of no-confidence because the health system was on the verge of collapse; with staff leaving in their droves, elderly people left to suffer for days on hospital trolleys and out of control waiting lists. 

“We had an out of touch government that supported developers and landlords, while working families were unable to afford a home, rents spiralled and people who worked hard all of their lives were told they would have to line up at the dole queue at 65. 

“It was the strong desire for change and a better future that saw so many people placing their trust in us as Sinn Féin received a historic vote and our support has continued to grow since.

Unfortunately the old boys club circled the wagons to keep us out of Government, but we are providing a much-needed and constructive opposition in the Dáil. We remain ready for Government, and eager to roll out our plans and policies on housing, healthcare, education and jobs. 

“Our local Councillor Conor McGuinness has been working exceptionally hard, on housing, on environmental issues, on planning and on helping communities get through the Covid crisis. We’re grateful for his work and for his determination to do right by his constituents. His work rate and ability have shown up the weakness of local government representation in West Waterford. 

“During the year we held a range of online events and, when restrictions allowed, a number of outdoor, socially-distanced initiatives. These included our online meeting on workers’ rights during Covid, commemorative events, 5km litter picks and clean-ups, online historical talks, and cumann meetings with guest speakers on a host of different topics. 

“We also distributed hundreds of Easter Lilies safely by post, and where possible within the prevailing restrictions, we ensured the graves of West Waterford’s IRA volunteers were tidied and anniversaries were marked.

Strong Team for West Waterford

We have elected a very strong and dynamic team locally, who will work together to build the party and to outline our vision for change. Our incoming officer board contains both youth and experience, and a healthy geographic and gender balance. The officer board is comprised of:

Seamus Kiersey – Chair / Cathaoirleach

Brendan Mansfield – Runaí /Secretary

Phyllis Davis – Treasurer / Cisteoir

Nora Mhic Gearailt – Treasurer / Cisteoir

Sinéad Mansfield – Vice-chair / Leaschathaoirleach

Bláthanna Creedon – Vice-secretary / Leasrunaí

Pia Fresenborg – PRO / Oifigeach Cumarsáide

Conor McGuinness – Irish Language Officer / Oifigeach Gaeilge

John Creedon – Membership Officer / Oifigeach Ballraíochta

“I want to thank all who put themselves forward for positions. The level of interest reflects the increase in members over the past year, and the level of activity within our cumann. We put our best foot forward as we face into another challenging year for our country and our communities. 

Making a Fresh Start

“2021 is the time to show the vision and the ambition needed to deliver a fresh start. The weaknesses exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic has made the desire for change even stronger.

“We need to continue to support people in the coming months so that businesses can re-open and people can get back to work – but we need to do much more than that.  

“A fresh start means being able to afford the roof over your head, and we need the biggest affordable and social housing programme in the history of the State – not big pay days for wealthy developers and big landlords. We need to make homes affordable for workers again and out of control rents must be tackled head-on. 

“We need to sort out our health services once and for all – and that starts with treating frontline workers properly and making sure they see their future here in Ireland and not the far side of the world.  

“We need to ensure that when you have worked hard all of your life that you have the right to retire on a State pension at 65 if you want to.  

“The two states that emerged from partition one-hundred years ago were, and remain, deeply flawed. The Mother and Baby Home scandal shows just how deeply the southern state and the political establishment failed its own people under successive Governments. More recent scandals, usually affecting and hurting women, show that despite huge social changes, the state’s approach to its people hasn’t changed very much from the 1950s. 

“”We need to deepen the conversation about ending Partition and delivering Irish Unity. The Irish government needs to start planning, because the reality is that we cannot afford partition – working together on the island is the best way to secure our future, and deliver the change that we do badly need and deserve.”

Young people must be consulted in Development Plan process – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called for young people’s views to be listened to in framing the new City and County Development Plan for Waterford. McGuinness made the comments as the Council debates the direction the plan should take. 

McGuinness said:

“Children and young adults must consulted as we prepare this plan. A proactive and age specific approach should be employed to seek their views on all aspects of the plan – which range from housing, to sports facilities, to job creation and climate change.

“Not only must their views be sought, but they should be considered just as seriously as anyone else’s. Today’s teenagers and young adults may well find their future life decisions impacted by this plan, whether it comes to buying or building a house, or being able to stay and work in their rural community. 

“The intention is for this plan to last until 2028, and its repercussions will be felt far beyond that. Its important that young people are allowed to be part of the planning process. 

“I’m sure that through online media and through targeted liaison with groups operating in the educational and youth work spheres a worthwhile, and forward-looking, consultation could take place.”

The Waterford City and County Development Plan 2022 – 2028 is currently being drafted. It sets out strategic objectives and planning policy for Waterford. There will be a public consultation on the draft plan from June 2021.

McGuinness welcomes €350k investment in West Waterford towns and villages

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed an inward investment of over €350,000 for five community improvement projects across West Waterford. The funding is awarded under the Town and Village Renewal project and will fund projects put forward by community groups and Waterford City and County Council.

McGuinness said:

“This investment is great news and credit must go to the community groups whose imagination and innovation has been the driving force behind these projects. Credit must also go to the Council officials that worked on the applications and to all Councillors that gave their backing to them.

“I was glad to support these projects, not only because each one is important in its own right, but because West Waterford needs significant inward investment, and that is especially true of our smaller towns and villages. Rural Ireland needs investment, it needs support, and it needs to be listened to. 

Clashmore to benefit from €85k community investment

“Funding has been made available to upgrade community facilities in the Heritage Centre and the Old School House in Clashmore. The installation of tourism signage and a marquee will also form part of this investment, which amounts to a total of €85,446. This good news comes in the wake of the allocation last September of €22,500 for enhancement works to the village centre, and €90,000 for footpath repairs and road resurfacing.

I made a commitment over two years ago that when elected I would ensure Clashmore was not forgotten about when it came to funding and investment, and I am glad to have played a part in delivering €200,000 for the town in the 18 months that I have been a councillor. 

Go-ahead given to develop long-term strategy for Dungarvan

“Over €50,000 has been allocated to develop and implement a strategic framework for Dungarvan. A comprehensive and long-term plan for Dungarvan is crucial as the town develops and expands. Planning for strategic infrastructure should have begun years ago and its important that we start this process as soon as possible. Demand already outstrips supply when it comes to housing, and demand will only increase over the coming years. Any strategic plan needs to pay special attention to how, where and when we build houses, and ensure that we have sufficient homes for our population, in line with ESRI and CSO projections. 

“The planning process must also take into account the need to develop leisure, cultural and sporting facilities. Dungarvan is unique in that it has no community centre and very little indoor community space. This needs to be addressed in the plan. A town our size should have an indoor swimming pool and the sports centre no longer fully meets the needs of the population.

Improvement and safety works approved for Aglish

“Almost €69,000 has been approved for much needed pedestrian safety measures for Aglish, as well as upgrade works to the community hall. The funding allows allows for the installation of heritage signage and way-finding finger post signs. 

The safety measures have been the subject of much campaigning and I want to thank the Roads Department for their cooperation in processing this particular application. I will continue to press for these works to take place as soon as possible, especially as more and more people have taken to walking during the lockdown. 

Stradbally Biodiversity Park given the green light

“I warmly welcome the allocation of over €88,000 to develop a community-led biodiversity park in Stradbally. This ties in with the Council’s stated support for the National Biodiversity Plan, and cements Waterford’s reputation for community leadership in environmental protection. 

“I have long advocated for a Tree and Biodiversity policy for Waterford and I hope to see such a policy form part of the forthcoming City and County Development Plan. It it heartening to see funding allocated to a project that has biodiversity at its heart. 

“The funding allocation also includes natural paving and pathways, seating, interpretive and educational wildlife signage and a bespoke bike-stand to encourage visitors to come by bike. 

Remote working hub for Knockanore

“Working from home can offer a better work-life balance, particularly for those who have to commute to their job. That said, the failure by successive Governments to rollout broadband in rural Ireland means working from home is not an option for some. 

“Across Europe remote working hubs have been central to keeping rural communities alive. They provide an option to younger people and families that might otherwise have to move to bigger towns or cities. 

“Almost €57,000 has been allocation to Knockanore to for IT infrastructure to develop a remote hub in the community hall. The allocation will also help fund the installation of a bus shelter and the installation of tourism signage for the village.”

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McGuinness: Waterford’s Public Lighting Contract must be reviewed

Sinn Féin councillor has said that Waterford City and County Council’s public lighting contract should be reviewed in in the wake of serious service interruptions and delays in addressing faults. 

McGuinness said:

“The recent blackout that affected Caseyville, St. Patrick’s Crescent and Byrneville is a case in point, and sums up the shortcomings that we are experiencing when it comes to public lighting across Co. Waterford. 

“These estates were left without public lighting for the best part of ten days, having already spent a number of days in the dark earlier in December due to a previous fault. These are established estates with a proportion of older people living in them. The lack of public lighting during the darkest part of Winter led to anxiety and increased security concerns for many. 

“It also meant that many residents didn’t venture out for an evening walk as the lack of light, coupled with the damaged and uneven footpaths made it too dangerous to do so. 

“I logged these faults moments after they occurred, as did many residents and several councillors. The response from the maintenance contractor left a lot to be desired, but sadly it did not come as a surprise. 

“If the public are not getting the efficient and responsive service they pay for then its important that the contract is reviewed on the basis of performance and capacity to deliver. I am calling for an urgent review of the public lighting contract, measured against the contractor’s ability to do the job required.”

Expand Covid Supports to protect Waterford SMEs through January Lockdown – McGuinness

Sinn Féin councillor Conor McGuinness has said the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) needs to be expanded to ensure businesses are protected during the new lockdown.

McGuinness said:

“The new lockdown has been driven by the immediate need to protect public health, and that must always be the priority.

“That said, these restrictions will place a heavy burden on Waterford SMEs, who are facing into a third lockdown in less than a year.

“The Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), we are told, aims to support businesses during the higher levels of lockdown.However, since day one, a number of limitations with the scheme have been highlighted by businesses and politicians. 

“In the days following the announcement of the scheme, my colleagues and I pointed out that the narrow nature of the scheme would mean suppliers, event management companies, taxi drivers, the outdoor activity industry, businesses without a fixed premises, and many others, would fall through the cracks within the scheme.

“There are companies, such as in the event management business, who employ many people, organise events all over the state bringing business activity to nearly every county, and who contribute significant tax revenue to the state, who have been excluded from the scheme because they don’t have a fixed premises.

“There are other businesses, such as suppliers, who are affected upstream by the shockwaves of the lockdown on their downstream customers, and they are also excluded from the CRSS scheme due to the narrow nature of who can qualify for funding.

“Unfortunately, to date, the issues identified within the scheme have not been addressed.

“Reform and expansion of the CRSS scheme is immediately needed to ensure it delivers for as many suffering businesses as possible during this third comprehensive lockdown.”

Mental Health road map urgently needed – Conor McGuinness

Sinn Féin councillor Conor D. McGuinness, has said a road map for mental health support provision must be put in place, following the introduction of new Covid-19 restrictions.

McGuinness said said:

“I have been inundated with calls and messages from people who are unsure, worried and scared about the increase in infections of Covid-19 and about the new restrictions. 

“When restrictions were first introduced, they did cause levels of mental health issues to increase but it was also a novelty. This was the first time we as a country had faced into something like this. The weather was nice, people were able to go for walks and do other forms of exercise outdoors. People thought that they would do this first lockdown and then get back on with their lives. 

“We are now entering into our third lockdown and people are extremely worried and frustrated. Retail and hospitality workers now find themselves out of work again, while some have not worked since March. Families cannot meet up with loved ones. The weather is not as nice as it was. 

“I have heard from numerous experts that Covid-19 combined with restrictions have created a perfect storm when it comes to mental health. There is another tsunami of mental health issue about to hit this island and the Government needs to take its head out of the sand and act. 

“Our already under-resourced mental health services, that were struggling to cope pre-Covid, are now operating over capacity. This is not sustainable. 

“It is unacceptable that in a year of national crisis that this Government reduced the percentage of the health budget to be spent on mental health.

“The Taoiseach said in his address to the nation last week that this is not a time for nuance when it comes to public health. I agree but it is also not a time for nuance for mental health provision. 

“I am calling on the Government to immediately put in place a road map for mental health provision and to support front line and community services to provide the help people desperately need.”

Waterford’s coastal communities need a champion, but not a hide-and-seek champion – McGuinness

Sinn Féin councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called on the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Marine to stand up for Irish coastal communities and to immediately seek a re-negotiation of access to Irish fishing waters following the outcome of the Brexit trade deal.

Councillor McGuinness said:

“The outcome of this Brexit trade deal amounts to another 15% cut in quota and income to our Irish fishing fleet that was already struggling to survive.

“The response from the Taoiseach and Minister McConalogue to this deal shows that they are not really listening to Irish fishing communities. Our coastal communities need someone to fight their corner – they need a real champion, not hide-and-seek champions.

“Limited financial compensation is not the issue. The real issue is the appalling ongoing spectacle of the handing over of our immense Irish natural fishing resource to others every year, to the immense detriment of our coastal communities.

“It is now time to revisit the EU Common Fisheries Policy quotas as they apply to Irish waters. This Brexit trade deal has clearly exposed the failings of the ‘relative stability’ approach that allocates quota in Irish waters based on the historical catch, decades ago, of the fleets of EU member states rather than the needs of our coastal communities around Ireland, closest to those fishing grounds.

“For the Irish fleet to be further ripped apart while there are immense fishing resources around our coast is absolutely unacceptable and the Irish government need to stand up for Irish interests. 

“Our fishing and coastal communities can not be sacrificed again at the altar of European political expediency.”

ENDS

Plea to restore Burgery Monument ahead of ambush centenary

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called on the Council’s Roads Department to restore the area around the Burgery monument, which as been disrupted during the ongoing N25 resurfacing works nearby. 

“This coming March marks the 100th anniversary of the Burgery Ambush. This engagement was part of a campaign of attacks against British forces carried out by the West Waterford Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. Two IRA volunteers lost their lives as a result of the engagement. The centenary is not only of great importance to those of us who honour the courage and sacrifice of all who fought for Ireland’s freedom, but it is also a time of remembrance for the families of those who died during the ambush. 

“I campaigned long and hard for the resurfacing works at the N25. They have been an inconvenience and have led to disruption, but this stretch of road was in dire need of attention. I’m glad that the works are coming to an end. 

“Unfortunately the area around the monument has been disrupted and left in a mess. There is a mound of topsoil, and a small dump of tarmacadam scrapings and other material from the road works. I am asking that the Roads Department attend to this as soon as possible. It will take some time for topsoil to settle and for grass to being growing, and I am concerned that if works to restore this piece of ground don’t begin in the next week or two, the area immediately adjacent to the monument will not be passable come the centenary in March.”

McGuinness queries progress on Cé Heilbhic works

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness posed a series of questions regarding repair and maintenance works at the fisheries harbour at Cé Heilbhic in An Rinn during the December Dungarvan-Lismore District meeting. 

McGuinness noted that dredging the harbour remained a priority but queried why works to repair the breakwater had stopped, with a considerable amount of work to be completed.

McGuinness said:

“Ce Heilbhic is an economically importance piece of infrastructure and is vital to the local fishing industry. It is also of strategic importance as the home of the Dungarvan and  Helvick Head and Lifeboat. A build up of sand and silt over several years means that at low tide entering and exiting the harbour can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

“Dredging the harbour has to be seen as a priority. Unfortunately the Government, and the Fianna Fáil minister with responsibility for fisheries, have refused several applications for funding. In fact the Minister has recently confirmed in writing that he has no intention of funding dredging for Heilbhic. This is despite a bizarre announcement to the contrary from one local councillor. 

“Earlier this year I welcomed funding to carry out urgent repairs on the breakwater and works commenced over the summer. Those works have ground to a halt and the job remains incomplete. My question is when this work will resume, and when we can expect the repair works to be completed?”

In response, Senior Roads Engineer Gabriel Hynes confirmed that the works were being carried out in two parts and that phase one was now complete. Phase two is to begin in the new year.

McGuinness welcomes €230 million multi-year Capital Plan for Waterford

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed the publication of the Council’s multi-year capital plan this month. The plan will see a total investment of €230 million across Waterford City and County to the end of 2024. 

McGuinness said: 

“Its important for us to take a strategic approach to capital investment and planning these important allocations over the medium to long-term period helps us make better decisions. 

“I am particularly happy to see significant funds allocated to phase 1 and 2 of the Cappoquin regeneration project, and to the Ardmore coastal erosion project. Its important that our capital spend is not solely focused on the bigger urban areas, but that all of Waterford sees the benefit of this investment. 

“Its great to see the allocation of funding towards the long-awaited skate park for Dungarvan. this is an important piece of infrastructure that will cater to a demographic that is rarely considered in terms of planning or design of public spaces.

“Its also worth noting the dedicated fund for footpath repairs. A total of €3.2 million will be made available to repair and replace damaged and dangerous footpaths. This is something I have been campaigning for and I am looking forward to helping develop the work plan for January. 

Irish Water cannot remain unaccountable – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has criticised the inability for public representatives to hold Irish Water to account, and re-iterated his call for the utility to be invited to attend Council meetings. McGuinness had raised a number of issues regarding waste water and sewage treatment systems at the December meeting of Dungarvan-Lismore District Council. 

McGuinness said: 

“It is extremely frustrating that as a public representative I am unable to question Irish Water management or hold them to account. 

“As a Councillor I sit on the Joint Policing Committee where Garda divisional management, up to the rank of Chief-Superintendent, are present and make themselves answerable to Councillors and community representatives.

“Similarly, I represent Waterford on the HSE Regional Forum, where the Chief Officer of HSE South, her staff, and the managers of the hospitals in the region can be questioned on policy and operational matters and held to account by public representatives. 

“There is no such forum or mechanism for holding Irish Water to account. This huge public utility has huge responsibility and its operations cut across public health, environmental, engineering, planning and commercial policy areas, not to mind its core functions of providing water and handling sewage. 

“Its unacceptable that this entity is not subject to accountability at the local and regional level. So much of what it does affects our daily lives, but it also determines where we can build, how clean our river and marine environments are, and how safe our drinking water is. 

“In the wake of the water supply fiasco in Dungarvan this summer I had asked that Irish Water management be invited to attend a Council meetings to answer questions and account for their lack of a back-up plan and their communications failures. 

“Now, faced with serious concerns regarding sewage systems around West Waterford, I repeat that request. This huge entity cannot be beyond public accountability. It can not be above scrutiny. While the Council cannot compel Irish Water to attend our meetings, a good starting point would be to issue an invitation. “

McGuinness calls for dedicated homeless services for West Waterford

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has appealed for homeless services to be made available in West Waterford. Speaking at a meeting of the Dungarvan-Lismore District Council McGuinness called for the Council’s homeless services, which are based in the City, to have a presence in Dungarvan. 

McGuinness said:

“Homelessness has become endemic in Irish society. Instability and precariousness has become a feature of our housing set up. the statistics don’t tell the full story and  It has fallen out of the headlines over recent months but the crisis has not gone away. The only longterm solution to the crisis is for Government to build tens of thousands of houses, as each of the three parties promised to do less than a year ago. 

“Unfortunately their election promises have been quickly forgotten, and dozens of families across West Waterford are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, as we head towards Christmas. Their difficulty and distress is compounded by the need to travel to Waterford City to access homelessness services. 

“I had campaigned for emergency accommodation to be made available in West Waterford to avoid  families being forced into hostels in the City, which would take them away from support networks and interfere with children’s routines and education. The Council has begun to provide some emergency accommodation in West Waterford and that is very welcome. 

“I would like to see some of the other Council supports made available in Dungarvan to lessen the ordeal faced by people from this end of the county, who need to access them. Having to the City to present as homeless, and trying to manage it around school times, childcare or work, is exceptionally difficult for someone who’s world is falling apart. 

“The HAP scheme is a failure. It ignores the reality of a deeply dysfunctional rental market and it pushes people into sub-standard accommodation. It inflates rents and its widely accepted to rely on undeclared cash top-ups from tenants to landlords. It is exceptionally difficult to find accommodation within the HAP limits, and the accommodation that is available often falls below the minimum acceptable standards. 

“I am glad to hear today that the Council acknowledges the shortcomings of the HAP scheme. The Council’s HAP Placefinder service has proven very useful to those that are struggling to find accommodation and the HAP team do their absolute best within the confines of a flawed system. 

“We are lucky in that we have an excellent homelessness services set up in Waterford, with interagency involvement and a great deal of expertise. It would be great if this could be made more accessible to people outside of the City. I can’t see why these services couldn’t be provided from Dungarvan on a part-time basis, or by appointment. I am appealing to the Council to bring these services to Dungarvan.”

Waterford needs 570+ additional houses per year to keep up with demand – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Waterford needs an additional 570 homes per year just to keep up with growing demand for housing across the city and county. McGuinness made the comments as the ESRI launched a major new research paper examining housing demand over the coming two-decades, entitled Regional Demographics and Structural Housing Demand at County Level.

“This research paper provides the statistical evidence to back up what we already know, that demand is currently outstripping delivery when it comes to housing. It is clear that demand for housing will continue to increase year on year up to 2040 and this is backed up by the detailed demographic projections in this report. 

“Waterford will need upwards of 570 houses coming on stream each year just to stand still and meet additional demand. This doesn’t take into account the pent up demand for housing that already exists across the City and County. 

“In a ‘business as usual’ scenario 28,000 homes will need to be delivered annually across the state in order to meet demand, however the research paper outlines another scenario of faster population growth, where that figure rises to 33,000 homes per annum. The report acknowledges that this figure will me significantly higher in the short-term due to a build-up in demand as a result of the housing crisis. 

“Waterford needs a a dynamic and long-term, strategic approach to delivering sufficient housing for our growing population. We need a strong housing mix that includes both social and privately-owned homes, as well as a focus on building affordable homes. The approach cannot neglect development in smaller towns and rural areas, and self-builders must also be facilitated. 

“The Government must empower and fund local authorities to lead on housing delivery. The Council is currently working on its Development Plan but we need to know funding is available for the Council to take decisive action to address Waterford’s current and projected demand for housing. ”

Notes: ESRI Research Series 111: Regional Demographics and Structural Housing Demand at County Level.Adele Bergin and Abían García-Rodríguez

McGuinness welcomes €1.26 million Waterford Festival grants for 2021

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed funding for festivals across Waterford City and County under the Council’s 2021 funding scheme. McGuinness proposed the allocations at the December meeting of Waterford City and County Council. 

McGuinness said:

“I was glad to secure the unanimous support of the full Council for my proposal to allocate some €1.26 million of public funding to festivals across Waterford City and County, and a former €255,000 for Waterford arts projects. 

“I am particularly pleased to propose significant funding for festivals and arts projects in West Waterford including Dungarvan’s TuneFest and Celtic Box Cup, the Towers and Tales festival in Lismore, and the West Waterford Festival of Food. 

“Irish language events such as Daonscoil na Mumhan and Tionól Niocláis Tóibín have also received increased funding. 

“Its important that Council funding for arts festivals is not limited to larger urban areas and its great to see support for events in Ballyduff, Tallow, Knockanore, An Rinn and An Sean Phobal. 

“My proposal today also sees major funding allocated to events that care to the whole city and county including the Harvest Festival, Comeragh Wilds Festival, Spraoi, Winterval 2021 and Waterford Walls. 

“The arts and festivals sector was amongst the first to shut down back in March. The ensuing loss of income and economic activity has been felt across the country, not to mention the impact on the creative and social lives of our communities. 

“Creative and social outlets will be more important than ever in 2021 as we seek to bring energy and enjoyment back to our communities, and as we rebuild our economy in the wake of 2020. This €1.26 million cash injection will be felt throughout city and county and I am delighted to propose its adoption to Council.”

Government must address unmet mental health needs of older persons – McGuinness

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Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has said that Ireland is heading towards an “unprecedented mental health crisis for older people”, with existing services for the elderly “under resourced, inadequate and not connected with each other”.

Speaking after a publication of a report “Mental Health Services for Older Persons” by the Mental Health Commission, Cllr McGuinness said:

“I welcome the report  published this morning by Dr Susan Finnerty of the Mental Health Commission, as it is a road map for the provision of comprehensive mental health services for the elderly.

“Ireland is heading for an unprecedented mental health crisis for older people with existing services for the elderly under resourced, inadequate and not integrated with each other.

“Dr Susan Finnerty, also describes Covid-19 as a ‘perfect storm’ in which elderly people already failed by existing healthcare services now face more risks from the disease.

“The report highlights population projections showing that the number of people aged 65 years and over will increase from 629,800 in 2016, to almost 1.6 million by 2051, which in turn will lead to increased pressure on the health system.

“About 15% of adults aged 60 and above suffer from a mental illness, and physical illness is also more common.

“Older people’s mental health is not getting the attention it deserves. The levels of unmet mental health needs amongst older people continue to be extremely high and it has never been more important to improve access to services.

“There are a number of recommendations in this report that highlight the need for services for older people to be more integrated, properly resourced, staffed and to be older person specific.

“I will be raising these issues with HSE management regionally and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health TD Mark Ward has committed to raise them in the Dáil.”

McGuinness: Government exploitation of Waterford student nurses is shameful

The leader of Sinn Féin on Waterford Council has branded the Government’s refusal to pay student nurses a fair wage as shameful. Councillor Conor McGuinness represents Waterford on the HSE Regional Forum. 

McGuinness said: 

“Despite the huge stress and pressure of working on the frontline at the heart of this unprecedented health crisis, thousands of student nurses stepped up to be key workers and to protect our communities by doing real work in hospital wards across the country.

“I have friends that have have been on placement as student nurses throughout this pandemic. I know the level of work that are doing in our health service, and the risks they are taking. 

“The very reasonable and moderate demand of student nurses is that they would be paid for the work they carry out. Not only are they not paid for working full-time hours and 13 hour shifts, but they have also been forced to give up part-time jobs they have elsewhere.

“TDs from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, including two from Waterford, voted against the Dáil motion to pay student nurses for their work. To add insult to injury Fianna Fáil attempted to explain their shameful position by stating that student nurses don’t do “real work”.

“How out of touch can a party be? Do the Government TDs, who have awarded themselves three pay rises already this year, really believe that rounds of applause are enough? 

“During the worst of the pandemic student nurses worked alongside other healthcare workers. They went into wards every day despite knowing the potential risks to themselves and their families because they wanted to play their part in serving the wider community.

“The student nurses that I know are very proud and very dedicated. They have chosen to be nurses because they want to provide care to others. But they are exhausted and feel completely exploited. Many are anxious and fearful about paying their rent, mortgage or basic bills.

“This is a shameful and exploitative way to treat essential workers who form the backbone of our healthcare system and who have worked so hard and with such bravery to protect us all.

“Rounds of applause and kind words don’t pay the rent or the bills. The Government has badly let our student nurses down and it is totally unacceptable.

“Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for our healthcare staff and their right to access fair pay. The Government must be held to account for this shameful decision.”

‘Pathetic’ Vacant Sites Levy returns demand action – McGuinness

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has called on the Minister for Housing to urgently engage with the local authorities about reforming the Vacant Sites Levy.

Waterford was one of only four local authorities that reported collecting revenue since the scheme. Less than 2% of the total amount owed to Waterford for 2019 has actually be collected. 

Councillor McGuinness said:

“The Vacant Sites Levy (VSL) was brought in to encourage landowners to utilise their empty land and build houses. It would appear that it is failing miserably in this attempt. As of the end of 2019, only 17 of 31 local authorities had active vacant site registers. 

“The VSL was determined at 3% of the market value of a site for 2019 and stands at 7% for 2020, yet the actual revenue from the levy has been pathetic across the board. Waterford is one of only four local authorities that have reported collecting any money under the levy in 2019 and again in 2020. Of €255,365 projected revenue for Waterford in 2019 only €3,645 was actually collected last year. 

“This levy is intended to promote house building on vacant sites, to prevent land speculation and hoarding, and to provide local authorities with funds to invest in housing stock. It doesn’t seem to be meeting any of these objectives. 

“Local authorities have raised many concerns about the Vacant Site Levy including confusion in determining vacancy. What is clear is that this is not working and that something needs to be urgently done to ensure that sites are not left sitting idle while people wait for homes. The Government made much of its promise to reform the levy but we have yet to see or hear anything concrete n this regard. It needs to be reformed to make it work, not to make it easier for speculators to hoard land. 

“The Minister for Housing needs to stop wasting time and he needs to engage with local authorities on this matter immediately.”

McGuinness: Government prefers to squander money on carbon credits than to retrofit housing stock

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has criticised the government for squandering €50 million on carbon credits instead of using it for real climate action. He said money would be better spent on retrofitting schemes for older council housing stock, and measures aimed at improving the energy efficiency of public buildings and homes. 

McGuinness said:

“This is what happens when successive governments pay lip service to climate action. We need to start making the necessary investments to reduce our emissions.

“Failing to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and to meet our targets means we have to buy allowances from countries that did.

“It’s like modern day indulgences – we get to go on emitting carbon dioxide and buy our way to meeting our targets. All we get for our €50 million is a piece of paper and absolution.

“The government have completely squandered taxpayers’ money. It will bring no material benefit to anyone in Ireland. Not a cent of this money will go towards insulation or energy efficient windows and doors.

“This €50million is the tip of the iceberg. It comes on top of hundreds of millions already squandered on purchasing carbon credits.

“With that money, we could have made ordinary people’s lives better by investing in renewable energy, retrofitting people’s homes, improving public transport.

“We have to move away from this carbon credit nonsense and empower families and communities to play their part in driving down our overall emissions.”